Global branding part of push by 'The Economist'

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The Economist launches its first global TV branding campaign this week, based around an endorsement of sorts from Nelson Mandela.

The ad tells a story about the future South African political leader when he was jailed for his political activities. The revolutionary was denied any news of the outside world. However, Mr. Mandela, who was studying economics, asked authorities for copies of The Economist, which the authorities provided-until they realized the weekly magazine was not just about economics.

The ad, known as "Freedom of Knowledge" and breaking May 9 on CNN and CNBC in the U.S. and in the U.K. on Channel Four, is narrated by Mac Maharaj, a former South African cabinet minister who spent 12 years in prison with Mr. Mandela. Mr. Mandela does not appear in the ad.

The TV ads trumpet a redesign, hitting newsstands May 11, that brings more color to its pages. The tagline is "The Economist. Now in color." The ads, created by Omnicom Group's AMV BBDO, London, will also run elsewhere in Europe on CNN and in portions of South Africa through the end of May.

The Economist has pushed for greater circulation in the U.S. For the six months ending Dec. 31, its North American circulation-the vast majority of which is in the U.S.-was 342,677. Its worldwide circulation for that period, said a spokesman, was 762,107. The spokesman said overall circulation for the first half of 2001 will likely be about 770,000; Economist chief operating officer Beth O'Rorke said North American circulation is currently around 350,000. In the early `90s, U.S. circulation was around 200,000.

The Economist's ad page losses this year have been significantly smaller than that of other U.S. newsweeklies. Through March, The Economist's ad pages were down 5.4%-Ms. O'Rorke said the loss narrows to 2.9% through April-while News-week dropped 17.5% and both Time and US News & World Report were down 21.2%. Ms. O'Rorke said the weekly currently expects to close the year with an overall ad page gain.

A spokesman and Ms. O'Rorke said the relative steadiness in ad pages may be traced to The Economist's ad mix, which leans much less heavily on steeply declining categories like automotive and tobacco which have hurt other newsweeklies' page counts this year. Yet the top category for The Economist-banking and financial services-may not prove exactly recession-proof.

The redesign will also be supported in the U.S. by a new print effort that will run May 11 through May 28. These minimalist ads, appearing in The New York Times and New York Observer and elsewhere, consist simply of a red block through which the message "The Economist: Easier on the eye, just as hard on the facts" peeks. The total ad spending for the campaign is around $2.5 million. In the U.S., The Economist is continuing with its ongoing print campaign focusing on key figures-the current incarnation dryly emblazons "This is your captain speaking. Please put your tray tables up and prepare for a landing" atop shots of Alan Greenspan-created by Weiss Stagliano Partners, New York. The new print ads were done in-house.

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