The Economist has launched a digital marketing campaign, reassuring readers about its ongoing editorial independence in the wake of its first major ownership change in nearly a century.
Last week, long-term majority owner Pearson sold its 50% stake in the title to investment company Exor, controlled by the Italian Agnelli family, and agreed to a buy-back of another £182m-worth shares to The Economist Group.
To reassure subscribers that The Economist will retain its independence, the publisher teamed up with its agencies AMV BBDO, Proximity and UM for a campaign reasserting its editorial “freedom”.
Targeting its global digital audience of 50 million, it launched a series of ads featuring witty comments on its ownership change (see below), including, “Buy into our values? We just have,” and, “Independence means we can still take whatever side we want.”
The publisher used programmatic media buying to “drive reach and response”. It also rolled out a two-minute video, emphasising The Economist’s commitment to personal and economic freedom since its creation in 1843.
Speaking to M&M Global, The Economist’s chief marketing officer Michael Brunt said the interest around the sale by Pearson created an opportunity to add to its 1.6 million global subscribers.
“We thought we should capitalise on the news, to reassure that our editorial independence is assured in perpetuity. It may tip people who have been tempted into taking out a subscription,” said Brunt.
The Economist is in the process of enhancing its use of data to improve its digital customer journey, using a mixture of content and commercial messages to drive greater loyalty, said Brunt.
“We’re not trying to stop the migration from print to digital, but we do believe our content should be paid for. We don’t mind which format people choose,” he added.
Brunt said The Economist’s marketing investment drive has been rewarded, with the cost of acquisition representing only a sixth of the average revenue during a subscriber’s life-span.
He argues the scope for growth is huge, with The Economist having identified over 130 million potential customers to be targeted with specific media plans and offered non-English language products.
Nicknamed ‘The Progressives’, these prospective readers are fascinated in the world beyond their borders, are ambitious in their careers, optimistic about their role in the economy and “happy to be challenged”.