George Osborne, editor of the Evening Standard, has underlined that he will unashamedly cover the newspaper in as many branded cover wraps as required to fund the publication amid declining returns from its paid-for rivals.
Speaking at Advertising Week Europe, the former chancellor of the exchequer said that the newly rebranded publication, that is distributed for free in urban areas with high footfall, has largely avoided the “precipitous falls” in circulation that have hit newspapers that carry a cover price. Just last week every major paper announced an annual decline in their figures in the ABCs.
The Evening Standard’s free model requires a sales team at the publisher to work with advertisers to develop bespoke creative and cover wraps.
Osborne said: “Our product is available for free, so we have got to raise money in adverts and sponsors to provide it for free. We are not proud of that and we will work with any advertiser to design a product that works.”
On the times this did indeed work, Osborne pointed to cover wraps for Dunkirk and Game of Thrones. Dunkirk’s creative was aged to emulate the newspaper’s edition the day of the D-Day landing. The Game of Thrones work splashed the series main characters in a way which would pull in its sizeable fanbase to Sky Atlantic.
On these efforts, Osborne said: “We will wrap it as many times we have to,” adding that it in no way appears to harm circulation of the title which he claimed the day prior nearly hit one million. He argued that good ads “make it look better”.
Instead, he said, circulation dips by around 50,000 people when it is “pissing of rain”.
The digital front is now a major focus for the company now that London has been dropped from the title. “There will be a big investment in digital. We are part of the same company as the Independent which has a lot of digital expertise. While editorial is not being shrunk the big investment is going into digital.”
Osborne hinted at ways it could monetise its reviews of theatre, cinema and food. “We want you to read that review and book the table through our website. The same is true of films and theatre.”
He concluded that in the digital space, people are now looking for brands they can trust after a period in the “wild west”. However, he concluded: “Print has a much longer life than people think, especially in free. This is a convenient product, more convenient than the Facebook feed or mobile phone.