Monthly Archives: July 2012

What Vanity Fair’s latest issue might look like, if it were weekly

America’s movie industry takes stock after the Aurora shooting, with this deeply moving cover from The Hollywood Reporter.

It may be weekly, but this cover delivers a feeling of quality and purpose that would dignify any world class monthly. Editorial Director Janice Min knows more than most about how to connect with an audience, as she was previously the powerhouse behind Jann Wenner’s Us Weekly in New York.

Her work at The Hollywood Reporter has been impressive since she arrived. So much so that in 2011 she was named by the Huffington Post as one of their media game changers of the year. I haven’t read this new issue, but Twitter suggests those who have found it very well reported.

To me, this looks like the cover Vanity Fair would wish they could do, if only they were a weekly. (Although I have been reminded that Vanity Fair Italy is weekly, but went in a very different direction this week)

This cover also feels eerily reminiscent of The New Yorker’s black on black 9/11 cover, suggesting that within the movie industry at least, the Aurora disaster might be seen in a similar light.

Illustrator Edel Rodriguez produced the art work, here’s the SPD post showing how he made the drawing. The grey halo around Batman’s head is apparently silver ink on the printed magazine. (Since I made this post, it’s been pointed out that Batman’s red tear drop looks like the eye tattoo favoured by those who have killed a man. I don’t know if this was Edel’s intention, but it certainly adds another layer of meaning to the work)

Shanti Marlar is the Creative Director of The Hollywood Reporter, previously (surprise!) with Janice Min at Us Weekly. Here’s the full story of how she redesigned the magazine back in 2010. A fine tale in its own right, this SPD post by Josh Klenert is packed with great visuals and plenty of insight.

But back to the story; here’s what The Hollywood Reporter’s own site says about their cover: ‘The new issue looks at the aftermath of the fatal shooting in Aurora, Colo., and how Hollywood will recover from the event — from the impact that violent work like The Dark Knight Rises can have and how movies like it will be made, marketed and seen in the months and years to come’

It’s a story I want to read.

Five must-see, must-read links

Superhuman. Deeply moving ad for the Paralympics. Thanks to Anthony from Umbrella

I was so immersed in this brilliant New Yorker profile of Bruce Springsteen, I ended up reading the entire thing ON MY PHONE. Tiring, but totally worth it.

Excellent visual of how tech companies change up their logos
‘You are Facebook’s product, not the customer’ An older Wired post, but still bitingly accurate. Thanks to Andy from Furthr

Hoefler & Frere-Jones clean up in the US Presidential typographic race

UK’s biggest selling fashion magazine shows how you can still sell shedloads on newsstand

Kelly Brook on Look magazineLook magazine had a real hit on its hands with this Kelly Brook cover, the latest winner of IPC’s cover of the month award. So this is a good time to lift the lid and take a look at the thinking behind the cover design, and why it works.

Central to its success is the ‘Love Your Body’ special issue theme, illustrated with an exclusive Kelly Brook shoot. This isn’t some random idea; body confidence is core to the Look brand promise. This is content it can truly own. Celebrity news is an important part of the Look mix, hence Jen holding up the bottom right corner, but here, splashing with access gives a real premium feel. To sell well on newsstand these days, a regular issue isn’t enough. Every issue has to feel like a special, every issue has to be seen as totally un-missable.

Kelly is a smart choice, she’s not a Hollywood A-lister, but she’s highly relatable. Her curvy body shape is inclusive, completely in line with Look’s promise of serving: ‘Every Girl, Every Shape, Every Size’. The play-suit might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Fashion director Jill Wanless has cleverly found the right balance between flesh and fabric. And Jill’s palm tree detail takes the reader somewhere way warmer than an English summer. But for me, the secret newsstand weapon in this picture is the hair. There’s plenty of it, and it looks absolutely magnificent.

The Look logo is now much bigger. Full width here, it leverages recognition, and again, makes the brand feel more premium and less tabloid. Art director Stuart Jones’s typography is a well judged mix of premium serif, friendly handwriting, modern typewriter and a punchy sans.

Editor Maria Coole’s lines are cracking. For the Look reader, ‘Style Ideas’ are now just as much value as ‘Style Buys’,  the liberal use of ‘Yours’ is is always catnip, there’s a big fat number, and the whole show closes with the promise to ‘Work Your Best Asset’.

But with this, as with any cover, colour is key. Look has long used ‘teal’ as its signature colour, but here the combo with coral (another Look favourite) not only gives a terrific aesthetic, but real newsstand punch. And it all clearly worked, as the cover sold like an absolute train. Nice work.

Sue you! Sue me! Sue everybody!

Except the Royal Family don’t sue.

There are no real grounds for legal action over this old Woman’s Day Princess Kate cover, other than perhaps on the matter of typographic taste and general layout. But this week, In defiance of a world-wide agreement to respect their privacy, Australia’s best-selling celebrity weekly has published long lens pap shots of Kate and Wills on their honeymoon of a year ago. Not only that, the headline: ‘Our Island Paradise’, clearly suggests this is a ‘with permission’ story.

Australian magazines have plenty of form when it comes to sticking up two fingers at the Royal Family. New Idea broke the story of Harry’s 2008 deployment in Afghanistan, while the infamous ‘Camillagate’ tapes of Charles and Camilla were broken by Bob Cameron when he was Editor of New Idea back in 1993.

This may have something to do with the longstanding tension between Australia’s history as a British colony, and the never ending debate around their republican ambitions. But the fact of the matter is that they don’t really give two figs for what folks in the old country think if they can just sell a few more copies.

And for Australians, being seen wandering around in your swimmers is really no big deal. It’s a beach culture, they are way less hung up about seeing people running around in a bikini.

The Wills and Kate cover is now all over the internet, but I have to say, it’s a weird feeling looking at it. It’s not like looking at porn, but it does feel somehow wrong, knowing that this was a private moment, and one that ‘old media’ agreed would be kept that way.

The risk to Woman’s Day, is that readers will turn against them, associating them with the kind of intrusion that eventually killed Princess Diana. The benefit is that they will sell a shed load of copies, but more importantly, everyone will talk about the brand, as my earlier post points too.

Given that Woman’s Day and New Idea have always been locked in their own private celebrity weekly death match, I guess that’s a risk they feel is well worthwhile.


What happens when Mad Men go to work on a media brand?


Sir John Hegarty visited IPC Media last week, and talked to us all about ideas, creativity and storytelling. As you might expect, he was wonderfully entertaining, full of wisdom and insight, and accompanied by a stunning showreel. Included in that was this TV ad for the Guardian, which has just won a gold medal for his agency BBH at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. It’s a brilliant illustration of citizen journalism, but how does it compare to other media brand ads?

There are lots of ways ad agencies can give media brands a little extra muscle. From billboards, press ads, and TV campaigns, through to viral stunts and actually doing the covers themselves. Ad agencies are able to crystallise the fundamental purpose of the brand, and most importantly, what response they want the audience to have. The Guardian ad has generated a lot of comment, most entertainingly at, but before we get to that, here’s a few other media ads that have really worked.

poster campaign for the economistThe Economist is arguably Britain’s most successful magazine brand. Lots of good reasons for that, but this long running poster campaign from AMV was surely one of them. Highly memorable, it was brutally effective in getting you to do what it wanted. Which, in this instance, was to subscribe. (And I love the fact that age of the management trainee, 42, is the answer to the Ultimate Question Of Life, as proposed by The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy)

This is the 10 second version of the launch TV ad for IPC’s Look magazine, made by Grey London. Fundamental to establishing Look as the UK’s biggest selling fashion magazine, the message is crystal clear. Look is all about High Street fashion. Buy clothes, buy the magazine.

Gail porter on the houses of parliamentThe outrageous projection of Gail Porter’s arse onto the houses of parliament was judged by the BBC to be the stunt of the century. FHM is now pretty much a busted flush, but at the time, the scale and bravado of the campaign really did help establish the brand. And importantly, it asked you to take action, in this case, Vote Gail! The projection was organised by Cunning Stunts, but the accompanying print ad here was done by none other than BBH. You’ll find it in John Hegarty’s excellent new book!

George Lois Ali cover for EsquireThe most direct route for an ad agency to take, is to design the cover itself. It rarely happens of course, but this is the most famous example. The story of how George Lois designed the cover of US Esquire all through the 60’s is well known, but the action required is clear: read the story, look at Ali differently.

Sometimes publishers just do it themselves. This was the launch press ad campaign for Mojo back in the day. Written by David Hepworth and designed by me, the campaign didn’t run for long, so it’s hard to know if it had any lasting effect, but at least it can be claimed to have given the brand a good start.

As for the Guardian, they’re arguably having their best years ever in terms of journalistic success. They’ve bloodied Murdoch’s nose, collaborated with the New York Times over wikileaks, and last week won yet more awards for their website and use of social media. But they lost £33m last year, £171m the year before, and £96m the year before that. At this rate, the trust that owns the Guardian could run out of money in three to five years.

The big bet seems to be all about making the Guardian a truly global force, and monetising the hell out of that. But as Colin Morrison has identified at Flashes and Flames, the four international newspaper businesses that are expanding and growing profits do not include the Guardian.

The Guardian‘s new ad looks as if it has been made with America in mind, so it should do well in raising awareness there. But after that, what else will it ask of the audience? To participate more? Think even better of the Guardian than they already do? Or just admire the genius of the ad agency behind the work.

Back in 1986, things were very much simpler. This is the Guardian‘s only previous TV commercial, ‘Skinhead’, made by BMP. The Guardian was attempting to fend off the launch of The Independent, so this ad was created to show that the Guardian was different. That if you wanted a paper without prejudice, the Guardian was the one to buy.

But today, you don’t need to buy the Guardian at all, because it’s free online.

So one way or another, I think BBH and the Guardian are going to have to work out how to get me to pay more for the brand. ‘Cos I’m willing to do just that.