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The Economist pilots innovative out-of-home campaign in New York

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The publication's out of home campaign will feature tactile interaction with special ads

Distinguished world affairs and business magazine The Economist is introducing an interactive out-of-home campaign, which looks to parlay conspicuous publishing success to achieve an ambitious goal of doubling its circulation profits in five years.

The digital campaign will use New York’s MTA On-the-Go digital network—available to users in the form of eighteen interactive screens around the city—to deliver free Economist content to their phone or desktop computer. The out-of-home initiative is the latest chapter in an organic transition to digital; a transition that serves to cut costs associated with print and bolster overall profitability.

“We have designed the experience such that users can interact with the screens and content in a number of different ways, dependent upon their individual preferences,” said Mark Beard, senior vice president of North America at The Economist. “If users wish to take advantage of the fact that they can input their cell phone or e-mail details into the screens, then they can do that. 

“Similarly, we recognise that sending a text directly from their cell phone, rather than a public kiosk, might be preferable for some of our users, so we consciously added this additional response-mechanism into the mix when we were designing the customer journey.
 
“We recognise that response rates are optimized when users are able interact in a way that is comfortable and natural, rather than out of the norm and uncomfortable. Naturally this means we spend a significant amount of time planning our activities, but we believe that this is time very well spent!”

On the go
The screens work through tactile interaction and present ads that provide the user the option to send selections of The Economist’s post-election content to their phone or desktop computer.

The ads will run for fifteen seconds every two minutes, and the campaign will run daily for four weeks beginning today. 

The campaign’s creative was developed by Proximity London, and is centered around a standard reemerging as the most desired quality in journalism since the election: trust. 

The screens emphasize The Economist’s principled approach to reportage and analysis, and are targeted towards what a press release names as “globally curious consumers on their commute.” The interactive screens find these curious consumers in their stomping grounds, at MTA stops Fulton Street, City Hall, 68th Street/Hunter College, 33rd Street/Herald Square and 14th Street & 8th Avenue. 

Interested users can find the ads at select New York subway stations

With the publication’s good intentions comes a more granular shift in its content delivery stratagem, in lockstep with the publication’s recent excursion into sponsored Snapchat stories (see story). 

“The Economist is famous for its comprehensive coverage of issues and we absolutely intend to continue surfacing the full breadth and depth of The Economist's editorial coverage in our marketing communications,” Mr. Beard said. “But right now, in the aftermath of the US election, research tells us that many Americans are looking for a non-partisan, trustworthy source of news. 

“They are seeking quality content to help them make sense of what the election result means for today and for the future,” he said. “It is therefore entirely appropriate that we should highlight The Economist's coverage of U.S. politics, to inform our target audience that they can turn to The Economist on an issue that is of prime importance to them. 
 
“Marketing that is designed to pique peoples' interest is most likely to be successful when the content is contextually-relevant and useful; we will, therefore, surface other content topics from our extensive coverage of issues, at times when we believe this content is particularly relevant and useful. What remains consistent, in addition to the breadth and quality of The Economist’s content, is our overarching strategy to surface relevant content as a conduit to a potential lifetime of enlightening and insightful content consumption with The Economist.”

Post-election fever
The campaign comes during a surge in subscriptions and renewals for news publications in the post-election rubble. Publications that have benefited from this boon include The New York Times, Mother Jones and The Wall Street Journal. 

The Economist’s nuanced and fact-centric analysis makes it a perfect candidate to cash in on the chasm created by the bankruptcy of cable news’ integrity, and its out-of-home campaign evinces the publication is more than happy to cater to the unique needs of the mobile consumer in order to do so. 

It may be a question of distance, but the publication has managed to evade the incendiary tone that plagues much of its ilk

“We know from our extensive research that our target audience in the US is has a propensity to subscribe to content and that they are willing to pay for The Economist's quality journalism,” Mr. Beard said “This latest digital marketing initiative, which runs in parallel to our 'always-on' activity in other digital channels, surfaces our quality journalism and allows us to start conversations based on the fact that we are surfacing content that is both useful and relevant. 
 
“We recognise that some people won't subscribe immediately and that is absolutely fine,” he said. “We use other digital marketing channels such as Social and Search to drive consideration and generate subscriptions, recognising that a one-size-fits-all approach to channels and journeys is unlikely to be successful. 

“We track all of our activities and we are patient when we need to show patience, because we believe there is demand for The Economist’s quality editorial content.”

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Rakin Azfar is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York. Reach him at rakin@napean.com.

 
Related content: Media/publishing, The Economist, MTA, New York

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