Monthly Archives: October 2012

‘There are no skeletons in the closet, and I got knighted, so that proves it, doesn’t it?’

Q magazine jimmy savilleSo said Sir Jimmy Savile under questioning from Tom Hibbert in his now heavily quoted 1990 interview for Q magazine.

The big line is Savile saying ‘I was hanging around in the porters lodge ’til about half past two this morning, wheeling in corpses’. But the whole piece is a quite extraordinary story, which you can (just about) read here, here and here. Thanks to Andy Pemberton, himself an ex-editor of Q, for the links.

Sadly, Tom died last year, and with him, went one of the very few writers whose style was potent enough to define the titles he wrote for; first Smash Hits, and then Q.

Aside from being the vehicle for Tom to display his astonishing interviewing and writing skills, ‘Who The Hell’ was one of the great magazine franchises. Devised by Editorial Director David Hepworth and the Editor, Mark Ellen, it ran from launch well past the 100th issue. It only ended when PR’s wised up, and stopped allowing their clients to be interviewed by Tom, for fear of the mangling they would receive.

As launch Art Director, I designed the template, although this Savile page was almost certainly laid out by Tim Harrison, the Art Editor at the time. Who intriguingly, was also the ex lead singer for 80’s British folk/punk band The Dancing Did.

Who the HellThe genius of this franchise, was that it was sited the very front of the title, so it completely set the tone for the entire brand. It let readers understand that this was a magazine with a point of view, a sense of humour, and a brilliant tone and style. What’s more, everything that followed benefited from its halo effect.

Font fans may like to know that later versions of the page dispensed with the over styled headline font and moved to a much calmer Grot No.9, as here. P.J O’Rourke was laid out by either Art Editor Shem Law or myself, I can’t remember who!

Tom Hibbert and maggie thatcherTom’s biggest scalp was undoubtably Margaret Thatcher, who when pressed on the sort of pop music she liked, confessed to an admiration for ‘How Much Is That Doggie In The Window’

The pictures were usually taken by Paul Rider, who shot Maggie and Tom, Chris Taylor, and in particular, the late Hugo Dixon, who took both the Savile and P.J O’Rourke portraits. All understood exactly the direction required: fly-on-the-wall, a feeling of intimacy, and a tremendous sense of grandiosity. Tom published a collection of all 95 of his “Who The Hell” interviews, a few copies of which appear still to be available on Amazon.

The bullshit hype is over. Four big lessons to learn from the death of Newsweek

end of newsweekThe end had been foretold for so long, that when Newsweek finally closed last week it ended up feeling a bit of a non-story. But in America, where Newsweek used to really mean something, everyone is having their say. In particular, this highly entertaining story on Nick Denton’s Gawker, from where this lead picture is taken from. (Check the first comment on that story, as a great example of damage control!)

There’s no lasting pleasure in looking back at why something failed, but there’s always something to be learned. So, for what it’s worth, here are Newsweek’s four biggest mistakes as I see them, and what Tina Brown could have done differently.

Romney newsweek covers1. Newsweek had no editorial direction. Witness these two Romney covers only five months apart. No values, no point of view, no unique content. What Newsweek did have was Tina Brown, which seems to have been way more trouble than it was worth. Tearing up the issue on press day, and endlessly changing her mind all drove her staff to distraction. That might have worked in the 80s, but no-one has the resource to indulge that now. Here are the 82 covers that Tina got Art Director Lindsay Ballant to try out in just one week. No wonder her predecessor Dirk Barnett shoved off to The New Republic.

Economist posterWhat Tina should have done: Produce a real direction for the brand, rather than just for herself.  A clear identity that distinguished Newsweek from the opposition, and made clear the benefits. Then sell the socks off that, rather than any individual cover. The Economist‘s poster campaign is old school, but it worked brilliantly. For more thoughts and examples on how to sell a media brand, take a look at my earlier post here.

daily beast website2. Using The Daily Beast as Newsweek’s digital platform was insane. It has an entirely different editorial look, feel, and tone. It’s boutiquey, insidery, a Vanity Fair inspired piece of work, owing much more to the niche 90s New York Mag Spy than anything else. It doesn’t represent Newsweek in any size shape or form.

What Tina should have done: Bitten the bullet, and produced a Newsweek website. But more than that, she could have created a proper content CMS that would have allowed Newsweek to seamlessly publish their content to any device, screen, platform or network the user wanted. This is called Adaptive Content, and is well explained by Karen McGrane in her excellent video above (Thanks Andy P.) Karen doesn’t elaborate on the content marketing opportunities such a CMS might afford, but this approach would clearly open up another big revenue stream. (Note: Karen has also been helping with the time.com move to responsive design, well reported here)

newsweek muslim rage3. The covers were attempts to court controversy. They worked on that level, they got people to talk about Newsweek, and they got Tina Brown back in the news. But they didn’t say anything about the brand.

bloomberg coverWhat Tina should have done: Given that Newsweek had 1.2 million subscribers when they closed, there is a case for suggesting that the covers should have talked to that audience, rather than try to create something out of nothing on the newsstand. I’m not saying the covers should look like the New Yorker, but if the work made the audience feel smug, as opposed to outraged, there would be value in that. This might however, have required hiring a genius Art Director, as Bloomberg Businessweek did with Richard Turley, whose work appears above.

newsweek logo4. The name, and the logo are utterly generic. Plain type white out of a red block is just not good enough if there is no additional value to the words. Time, The Economist, Bloomberg and The Atlantic all have names with some sense of individuality, and all have logos that say something, that give clues as to how the brand will add value to the stories.

Atlantic logoWhat Tina should have done: Redesign the darned thing. The Atlantic logo here was redrawn by Mark Hayman from Pentagram. Classy, authoritative, you know exactly what this brand stands for, and why it’s worth the money. Tina should have hired an equally heavyweight agency, who could have co-ordinated a modern look and feel across the whole brand.

But I never heard from her…

 

Unlock your inner James Bond

 

This Bond/Coke cinema ad is just genius. It’s hugely entertaining, but also manages to intertwine the values of two very different international brands. However, I think the creative direction borrows an awful lot from the Carlsberg Bad Boys cinema ad, below. Which for me, and many others, is still THE GREATEST VIRAL AD OF ALL TIME. Check out Bill Murray at 7 seconds in…

Ad people talking bollocks

if this is a blog...This is what Ben Kay’s excellent advertising blog looks like, or at least a part of it.

Unlike publishing, many people in advertising have been blogging like crazy for years. It’s part of their culture and they’re good at it. There are many notable sites, Only Dead Fish is great for marketing, Dave Trott for creative thinking and Adliterate for planning are all well worth reading. But Ben Kay’s ‘If This Is a Blog, Then What’s Christmas?’ if not the best, is certainly the most controversial.

Ben is Creative Director at MAL London. He’s done a ton of great work, and is currently working on the Apple account. But that aside, it’s his blog that seems to be maintaining his reputation and notoriety. Which we heard all about when Ben came into IPC yesterday. He gave a wonderful talk, full of charm, substance, and by his own admission, mistakes.

Lots of mistakes.

He used these as his metaphors for how to create new things. Or perhaps a post-rationalisation for a spectacular series of early career cock-ups that would have clearly sunk a lesser talent.

Either way, it hardly matters. His blog is genuinely fantastic, quick links, short form, longer pieces, tons of comments, the lot. The design is brilliant, but from a typographic point of view, there are lots of what might be seen as mistakes.

From the crash leading in the title and justified cap heads, through to the even more widely spaced bold caps in the right rail, the design is deliberately ‘off’. It’s understood that this whole thing is a work in progress. The paint is still wet, new content will be arriving imminently. It’s a fantastic example of how to stretch Times New Roman beyond endurance, and yet still retain the authority and trust held in the letterform DNA. Stanley Morrison will be spinning in his grave.

It might appear to be flung together, but I have no doubt every detail is intentional. Amazingly, it seems to be an off the shelf wordpress theme called blog.txt. It’s designed by Scott Wallick, who, on his own site describes himself as ‘An editor making more mistakes than corrections’.

This not only chimes with Ben’s talk, but works commercially, as according to WordPress for Dummies, blog.txt is in the top ten of wordpress themes. Who knew!

A cover archive so good, my head hurts

migraine magazine coverI found this amazing piece of work up on coverjunkie last night. As far as I can make out, Intermediair seems to be a Dutch lifestyle magazine driven by job ads. But boy, do they have an incredible back catalogue of cover ideas. I’m not sure about the masthead down the page, but then again, I can’t read Dutch, so what the hell do I know. There are loads of Intermediair covers after the jump, but they’re better seen at coverjunkie, where the resolution is higher.

UPDATE: Jap Biemans, who runs coverjunkie, has been in touch and said that the magazine will close in a couple of issues, and go to web only. Big shame, given that Intermediair won the 2012 Prix De Coeuvre at the Dutch National Magazine Awards … for their entire 8 year cover back catalogue. Jap also tells me that he was the Art Director for all those 8 years. Talented man.

See more

Bond. Alighting at Bond Street.

time out coverTime Out‘s cover was given a bit of a kicking last week on this blog, so it’s a pleasure to be able to show this, their new cover out today. Given that everyone from GQ to TV Times have done Bond recently, and done him well, it’s hard to find something new to say. But Time Out have done a great job here. Bond is at Bond Street, there are what look like Bond sequences up on the wall, and best of all, a couple of Bonds in the tube carriage, looking suitably flustered. There’s an ad wrapped around the cover, so the work isn’t visible on the street, but the cover is clever, eye-catching and bang on brand. Very smart.

How to photograph the world’s biggest pop star for your cover

marie claire coverHere is Marie Claire‘s November subscriber cover, proving that Autumn has truly arrived. But it also shows how to present the biggest pop star in the world.

Forbes have named Taylor Swift as the richest celebrity in the world under 30. She has 35m Facebook likes, 14m Twitter followers and 120m visits to her MySpace page. She has 100 awards worldwide, 6 Grammys and her latest single is the fastest single to reach number one on iTunes of all time. She’s 22 years old, and she’s now dating a Kennedy.

Rihanna, Gaga, and Bieber don’t even come close.

Succesful celebrities have such a strong sense of their own image, that it can be very hard for editorial to create a new look for them. But this is the genius of Fashion Director Jayne Pickering and her work. Not only is she a great stylist, but she can gain the trust of people like Taylor to tell her story.

This is what Marie Claire is all about. The scale and ambition of the brand just putting a fashion icon on the cover is not enough. They have to use true superstars and make them look really fashionable and keep them feeling genuinely approachable.

There’s much to admire in this picture. The hair is great, the makeup is strong, yet wearable, and the styling is both aspirational and accessible. Photographer David Roemer has managed to create a lovely balance between a backlit, natural feel and a punchy, engaging composition.

The absence of eye contact puts the styling front and centre, yet the floorboards and dado rail retain a feeling of intimacy with the star. It’s a genuine moment. One we want to be part of.

The design is understated, as it needs to be. But Art Director Lottie Berridge has still made a massive statement with both the logo colour and the coverline typeface. Both are vital in letting the Marie Claire brand have real ownership over the image, without denting the fashion credentials.

If you’re interested, the rest of the shoot is just as good, you can see it online here.

 

With a brand like the Big Issue, the content’s value is wrapped up in the transaction itself

time out magazineA couple of weeks ago, Time Out went free. Here’s one of their distributors handing out the first issue of their Brave New Business Plan. Knowing this, and as a spoiler of sorts, the Big Issue responded with a very clever cover proclaiming that it’s ‘Worth paying for’.

big issue magazineWhich it undoubtably is, given that the money goes directly to a homeless vendor. But it’s also true to say that this unique business model means that the customer is not just paying for the content. The value and reward is all wrapped up in the transaction itself, which this particular cover explicilty visualises.

What’s more, the halo effect of this transaction spills over into the appreciation of the content, making you feel good about what you’re reading. That said, for most of their readers I suspect the content is a secondary reason for purchase. This makes the Big Issue content essentially free.

But the fact remains that both audience and brand have a strong social conscience. And along with their vendors, all believe their actions can improve matters. This gives the Big Issue a unique opportunity to put stories that matter in front of people who otherwise would never read them. Thier website proclaims that here is ‘Journalism worth paying for’ Like supporting the homeless, the challenge for all of us is to make sure that both these ideas don’t just fade away.

big issue magazineAnd a great cover is the very best way of keeping their brand on the boil. It makes the purchase experience exciting, it dignifies the homeless vendors’ investment in their stock, and it allows the reader to explain to the world who they are in that particular moment. And as if to prove that very point, here is their latest. The execution is stunning, matching anything Bloomberg and the like may be able to produce.

time out magazine goes freeTime Out now have an entirely new agenda, as this, their first free cover shows. It’s direct and to the point, a clear demonstration of the brand’s ubiquity and utility. Weirdly, as a subscriber, I don’t miss the loss of pages that much. It still tells me what’s on, and whether its any good or not. And it gives me ideas about things to do that I’m not explicitly searching for. But it doesn’t do much more, which means it’s dangerously reliant on the usability and portability of print as the reason for the magazine’s existence.

three stylist coversAs Shortlist Media has shown with Stylist magazine, quality covers are still essential in the freemium marketplace. Without the commitment generated by paying for it, the cover needs to create a sense of intensity in the relationship with the reader. There is permission to take risks, be controversial, and best of all, not worry about proving there is enough inside to make it worth the cover price. Less obvious, but increasingly important, a good cover helps deflect any discomfort over being sold to by the advertisers in the issue, and increasingly, in front of the cover itself.

time out magazineWhich brings us to this, the second issue of the all new, free Time Out. This made for lively debate in the office; Who is their audience now? What are they actually trying to do?

Peter Preston has a good piece in the Guardian about the lack of detail in the listings, its relationship with the competition, and the general proliferation of free magazines. But what does that mean for the cover?

With a paid proposition, a brand can be very clear with advertisers who’s buying it and why. Time Out’s paid audience was passionate, committed, and pretty knowledgable about film, food and all sorts. But recent covers have never really reflected that, with a reliance on the newsstand orientated play of LOTS and LOTS of lists. But now, do they attempt to sell the benefits of being associated with the refined tastes of their traditional readers, or do they become shamelessly populist in order to match expectations of a much larger and diffused audience?

This Helena Bonham Carter cover has divided the critics. For some, it’s neither one thing or the other. She’s not recognisable, she’s not famous enough, and the core idea is not visible enough. The headline doesn’t say much and the whole thing is very dark. Yet for a longtime lapsed reader who just strolled through my office, it was a huge success. He had re-sampled the brand, (as it was now free), found the cover compelling and intriguing, read the interview and proclaimed to me that he LOVED Time Out, despite not having bought an issue in the previous ten years.

Then he put it in the bin.

What makes you pick up a cover, even when the magazine is free?

time out magazineA couple of weeks ago, Time Out went free. Here’s one of their distributors handing out the first issue of their Brave New Business Plan. Knowing this, and as a spoiler of sorts, the Big Issue responded with a very clever cover proclaiming that it’s ‘Worth paying for’.

big issue magazineWhich it undoubtably is, given that the money goes directly to a homeless vendor. But it’s also true to say that this unique business model means that the customer is not just paying for the content. The value and reward is all wrapped up in the transaction itself, which this particular cover explicilty visualises.

What’s more, the halo effect of this transaction spills over into the appreciation of the content, making you feel good about what you’re reading. That said, for most of their readers I suspect the content is a secondary reason for purchase. This makes the Big Issue content essentially free.

But the fact remains that both audience and brand have a strong social conscience. And along with their vendors, all believe their actions can improve matters. This gives the Big Issue a unique opportunity to put stories that matter in front of people who otherwise would never read them. Thier website proclaims that here is ‘Journalism worth paying for’ Like supporting the homeless, the challenge for all of us is to make sure that both these ideas don’t just fade away.

big issue magazineAnd a great cover is the very best way of keeping their brand on the boil. It makes the purchase experience exciting, it dignifies the homeless vendors’ investment in their stock, and it allows the reader to explain to the world who they are in that particular moment. And as if to prove that very point, here is their latest. The execution is stunning, matching anything Bloomberg and the like may be able to produce.

time out magazine goes freeTime Out now have an entirely new agenda, as this, their first free cover shows. It’s direct and to the point, a clear demonstration of the brand’s ubiquity and utility. Weirdly, as a subscriber, I don’t miss the loss of pages that much. It still tells me what’s on, and whether its any good or not. And it gives me ideas about things to do that I’m not explicitly searching for. But it doesn’t do much more, which means it’s dangerously reliant on the usability and portability of print as the reason for the magazine’s existence.

three stylist coversAs Shortlist Media has shown with Stylist magazine, quality covers are still essential in the freemium marketplace. Without the commitment generated by paying for it, the cover needs to create a sense of intensity in the relationship with the reader. There is permission to take risks, be controversial, and best of all, not worry about proving there is enough inside to make it worth the cover price. Less obvious, but increasingly important, a good cover helps deflect any discomfort over being sold to by the advertisers in the issue, and increasingly, in front of the cover itself.

time out magazineWhich brings us to this, the second issue of the all new, free Time Out. This made for lively debate in the office; Who is their audience now? What are they actually trying to do?

Peter Preston has a good piece in the Guardian about the lack of detail in the listings, its relationship with the competition, and the general proliferation of free magazines. But what does that mean for the cover?

With a paid proposition, a brand can be very clear with advertisers who’s buying it and why. Time Out’s paid audience was passionate, committed, and pretty knowledgable about film, food and all sorts. But recent covers have never really reflected that, with a reliance on the newsstand orientated play of LOTS and LOTS of lists. But now, do they attempt to sell the benefits of being associated with the refined tastes of their traditional readers, or do they become shamelessly populist in order to match expectations of a much larger and diffused audience?

This Helena Bonham Carter cover has divided the critics. For some, it’s neither one thing or the other. She’s not recognisable, she’s not famous enough, and the core idea is not visible enough. The headline doesn’t say much and the whole thing is very dark. Yet for a longtime lapsed reader who just strolled through my office, it was a huge success. He had re-sampled the brand, (as it was now free), found the cover compelling and intriguing, read the interview and proclaimed to me that he LOVED Time Out, despite not having bought an issue in the previous ten years.

Then he put it in the bin.