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Special Project

Special Project
From the 8th Annual Shorty Awards

The Economist Independence campaign

Entered in Integrated Campaign


The Economist, the authoritative insight and opinion on international news, politics, business, finance, science and technology, prides itself on its heritage of editorial independence. Since our founding in 1843, we have served no master other than the liberal credo of open markets and individual freedom. On August 12th 2015, a change in ownership was announced - The Economist Group would buy back shares from one of its major owners, Pearson. This would further cement the editorial independence of The Economist.

The news presented both a unique opportunity and a challenge for The Economist's social, digital and PR media teams. This was an opportunity to boost brand recognition and awareness of the brand values that lie at the heart of The Economist. However, the campaign had to be built and executed while the topic was still newsworthy, meaning at most a 24-hour turnaround from the time of the announcement.

The campaign sought to achieve three goals.

1) Demonstrate the editorial independence that lies at the heart of The Economist to our readers. At a time when truly independent journalism is all too rare and often under threat, The Economist was strengthening its independence and, in doing so, improving its ability to serve its readers in the future

2) Convince warm prospects that there has never been a better time to subscribe to The Economist

3) Grow our online audience - cultivate a larger audience across platforms and boost engagement

Strategy and Execution

Because of the short lead-in time for this campaign, developing a strategy that would position the organisation for success needed to be done quickly. It was immediately decided that this needed to be a global campaign, coordinated across several channels, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+, and Instagram. The campaign would be supported by assets on The Economist website, e-newsletters, ads in the print edition and a PR (media relations) effort. All channels would serve to inform our readers, warm our current prospects to subscribe and introduce new people to The Economist brand and values.

Our advertising agency developed different witty and provocative creative delivering the message in The Economist's "white out of red" advert style. To show (in advertising form) that we take our independence seriously, we changed the typical colour and fonts in some of these ads. It was a witty way of demonstrating that we can do whatever we like now, even change our colour and font guidelines. For example, we changed a typical red Economist ad to green. The copy and similar concepts were used throughout the social / digital / print campaign, pointing people to the Editor-in-chief's letter explaining our new independence. From that point, readers could click through (or visit in case of print channels) Economist articles that exemplified our editorial independence or they could click to subscribe. Those who were already subscribers or chose not to subscribe straight away would see additional Economist ads in the future as they surf the net or use apps.

From the social standpoint, Facebook operated as the main anchor for the campaign, supported by Twitter and Google+ and LinkedIn, while Instagram served as a place for vibrant visuals to engage users around the news of The Economist's independence. We also used Facebook for a Q&A with The Economist Group CEO - asking him questions about running The Economist and what the change in ownership meant - an event we would seek to direct users to using all our social channels. Push notifications on Economist apps would also be used to highlight the Q&A, as we sought to generate as much awareness as possible around the event within 24 hours. The masthead on our Facebook and Twitter pages had a message about our new editorial independence.

For other digital media, we ran our ads on and programmatic ads on websites where our warm audience would naturally graze (places like the Guardian's website or the New York Times website as examples). A dedicated email about our independence was sent to readers and prospects, and our newsletter had a section dedicated to the story.

Finally we launched a new brand values video and posted it to all social pages and, and connecting it to the campaign on independence.


Overall 50 million "warm" prospects were targeted through social, digital media, e-newsletters, and press outreach

On social we targeted 10 million Twitter followers, 5.6 million Facebook followers and a further 10 million wider Facebook audience that matches the profile of Economist fans

Total reach and engagement for all social posts: Reach generated on Facebook and Twitter: 4.5m Total comments, likes and shares: 23k

Facebook Q&A reached 4 million Facebook users and generated 7K interactions (comments, likes and shares)

Through programmatic ads and posting digital ads on we reached 30 million people (either visited in last 30 days or clicked on one of our digital ads)

Newsletter was sent to 1.2m registered users

Print ads in the weekly Economist reached over 1.5 million subscribers

Press response:

We attempted to and successfully reached our current audience through our our internal channels. We moved "warm" prospects across the customer journey to subscription phase by targeting them on social and digital channels. We reached brand new cold audiences through press outreach. All audiences now were aware of our new editorial independence and could understand how it will continue to bring out the best quality journalism you would expect from The Economist.


Video for The Economist Independence campaign

Entrant Company / Organization Name

The Economist


Entry Credits