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The Economist thinks it can turn media buzz around its ownership change into subscriptions with ‘cheeky’ campaign

Rather than close ranks amid its ownership change, The Economist is trumpeting its brand credentials in an attempt to turn the wave of fan support for the move into actual subscriptions.

The future of the title (and consequently its editorial independence) was called into question by some fans after Pearson sold its stake in the Financial Times last month. These fears were somewhat abated when just weeks later news broke that it was buying back 20 per cent of the 50 per cent stake Pearson was getting rid of, with the remaining 30 per cent snapped up by the Agnellii family.

“We have been reviewing the comments about our social media posts and the vast majority of our fans are very supportive – and relieved,” said the media group’s chief marketing officer Michael Brunt.

Not content with the flood of support from fans for the arrangement, the publisher now wants them to show they care by forking out for a subscription. Buoyed by its newfound daring approach to marketing, The Economist’s latest ads draw attention to its share buy-back, cheekily asking if the viewer buys into its values then why not buy into the magazine, by taking, or renewing, a subscription.

To push the creative, the title is switching out about 50 per cent of the ads and posts that normally reference its articles with messages about its independence. Brunt estimates these ads will remain “top performers” for just under a week, before they will be “usurped” by ads linking to articles on different subjects. The length of this campaign will depend on what happens in the world during the week and how the title’s target audience respond to the content.

The campaign was rolled out in just 24 hours to capitalise on Pearson’s announcement late last week, with the Economist’s agencies Proximity, AMV BBDO and UM called on to help. Their efforts helped shape the programmatic buying strategy used to propagate the ads as well as create content for when the brand’s Twitter followers passed 10m and a video to showcase the values it’s held dear since it’s inception.

Like all aspiring digital marketers, Brunt claimed The Economist’s online marketing is “always on” and so for this campaign, all its regular digital campaign metrics will be tracked. . This includes all the usual suspects; impression volumes, impression costs, click-throughs, costs per click, prospects (cookies) added to its database for future retargeting, cost per prospect, registrations, likes, comments, shares and ultimately, the volume of new subscriber and the cost to acquire each new subscriber.

“We diligently and forensically track the digital customer journey and this campaign will be no exception,” added Brunt. It’s a mindset emblematic of how the publisher’s marketing has changed over the last two years with it taking on a more progressive attitude yet aggressive focus on building out its subscriber base.

“We have a mantra in our marketing team; to pursue determinedly, measure relentlessly and optimise ruthlessly. This approach, supported by deep analysis of the huge volumes of readership and engagement data we collect, has enabled us to halve the cost to acquire subscribers over the last two years,” said Brunt.

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