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Digital design wasn’t enough for Ballantine’s to create the world’s first Instagram magazine

How do you create an innovative Instagram magazine for a modern whisky? For Ballantine’s the answer was to throw caution to the wind and adopt centuries' old print publishing sensibilities to create a unique form of branded content.

The whisky maker’s Instazine is its attempt to make a splash on a channel it had circled for some time but wasn’t sure how to win over its users. A magazine aimed at modern whisky lovers was deemed the right approach, one that eschewed the typical branded page in favour of content that lets Instagramers interact with the brand in a way new to the platform.

“There’s a tendency for digital design to just look back at itself and ignore the centuries of print design and thousands of years of art design,” said Simon Cheadle, a creative at Work Club, the agency that developed the project. Speaking at a Cannt event this week, he added that the magazine had been littered with “Easter Eggs” so that the “more people spend time looking through the magazine then hopefully they’ll get more back from it from a user experience perspective”.

Billed as the first of its kind, the Instazine uses a mosaic-style grid of images that together make up the front page. Tapping on the different posts takes users to the individual articles that make of the first issue and cover cocktails with bitter taste profiles, the link between mixology and the popular Sims video game as well as interviews with three women shaping the whisky category.

“We had to hack Instagram,” said Cheadle. We needed to come up with a way that would let the readers experience the magazine in way that would let them to jump between articles. There are also little things we tried to include like the cover of the spine on the left hand side [of the grid]. The idea was that when people look at it they’re not just seeing a normal Instagram post.”

The approach is indicative of Ballantine’s running in Instagram while others are walking. While the brand is arguably the most innovative in Pernod Ricard’s cabinet, much of that willingness to test new channels stems from its relationship with Work Club. The agency has been Ballantine’s partner in crime for some of its most outlandish marketing over the last five years including the creation of the world’s first programmable t-shirt.

“[Work Club] has been working with Balantine’s for five years now and so there’s a lot of trust there. We only had three face-to-face meetings during the development of the Instazine,” said Cheadle.

“We’re at such an early stage when it comes to digital design yet there are already these weird rules that insist marketing on channels be done in a certain way. But in fact you can hack them and fuck around with them. There’s not just one way to use an Instagram channel. You can things in an interesting way."

The Cannt festival is taking place all week as an alterative to Cannes Lions. For further details click here.

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