On Friday 18th September we headed to Edinburgh’s Surgeon’s Hall for the fourth PPA Scotland Magfest. A day of presentations, discussions and celebrations of all things magazine. In 2015, this means not just chatting print, but addressing the various communications channels and challenges that modern publishing is presented with.
Magfest 2015 kicked off with Cannes Lions CEO Phil Thomas tackling the topic of creativity head on. ‘Any brand can be creative’ he said, and the award winners at Cannes Lions illustrate this as well as anything else. Just consider the now infamous Volvo trucks spot featuring Jean Claude Van Damme – the biggest winner the festival has seen yet, despite the distinctly ‘unsexy’ product. Creativity matters not just because it can be a force for change and for good, but because it directly drives higher ROI for businesses. This is important for brands to get their heads around, and for the agencies that work with them to reiterate. Not their capacity to be creative – all know this, though not all apply it – but the evidence that great creative work itself delivers higher share value and drives long term business impact. Bravery pays off.
This sentiment was echoed by several other speakers. For BBC Worldwide, creativity is part of how they do business, not something they apply from time to time. Marcus Arthur explained that the BBC Worldwide team know that if they’re creative and build the reputation of the BBC then financial success will take care of itself. This focus on being creative and getting the best ideas to come to fruition delivers better results than focussing on the finances as the sole end in themselves.
Throughout the day the spectre of ‘disruption’ was present: disruption of the publishing industry, of TV, culture, advertising models, customer loyalty and news discovery. For the BBC, as for many of the other businesses in attendance, creativity has been what has allowed them to overcome some of the challenges that disruption has created and led to new and exciting outcomes they perhaps had not anticipated.
Disruption need not be seen as a negative force, but an opportunity that should inspire change. For example, the last few years have seen ever more conversations about the ‘death’ of newspapers and the decline of print, but to paraphrase Francesco Franchi of IL magazine, “it’s not that newspapers are dying, it’s that one way of making newspapers is coming to an end”. This is by no means unique to the newspaper business, and how individual companies react and adapt is helping to inspire others and shape the long term future of a swathe of industries.
To mitigate some of the risk that goes hand in hand with treading new ground, more and more publishers and brands are looking at how they can intelligently apply data. Our own Darcie Tanner spoke about how organisations of any size can make sense of ‘big data’ and draw useful insights from the mass of information out there and data got called out as a priority consideration in a number of talks throughout the day.
Kerin O’Connor revealed some of the ways they’ve used data at The Week to inform their evolved print and digital model and consistently grown both strands by ensuring they really understand their audience. With staggering renewal figures and a progressive test and learn approach to new activity, they’re continuing to see returns and have sidestepped the issues that have affected many peer publications.
Understanding your audience was also at the core of Mimi Turner‘s session, where she discussed how The LAD Bible has come to know more about the tricky to reach 18-24 males group in the UK than perhaps any other organisation. With a reflective, community led proposition they are committed to going where their audience directs them and making it easy for them to find what they want. She advocated a shift for publishers from being ‘doers’ (which is a role now belonging to the audience) to being listeners. This is a tricky notion for some brands and publishing businesses to apply, having kept customers and audiences at a distance from the inner workings of their business , but if they’re to succeed in a modern, integrated communications landscape then it’s something that can’t be ignored.
What was clear from all of the speakers and the discussions amongst attendees was that the sector isn’t sitting still and there’s a lot of positivity about what the future might hold. With so much changing and so much interesting work happening to meet the challenges this brings, it’s an exciting time to be involved in publishing.