Back in March this year we headed to Rankin’s studios in Kentish Town to try sell him the idea of editing The Drum. We’re glad to say the world-renowned photographer agreed, but on the condition that he could use it to challenge our industry – and the wider world – to sell him the truth for once.
If you cast your mind back, this was a time of Extinction Rebellion closing down London, of a Finnish reporter exposing Russian troll farms only to have her journalism award rescinded by Trump’s administration, of a comedian being elected president of the Ukraine and of Theresa May having her Brexit deal rejected yet again.
The months since have only added to the collective confusion over whether anyone anywhere tells anything other than lies any more. Given the desperate state of the world, we were hardly going to tell him no.
And so we set about making an issue of The Drum together, telling Rankin's truth, questioning fake news and deepfakes, gathering some brutally honest opinions from some compulsively honest people.
People such as Carole Cadwalladr, the Pulitzer nominated investigative journalist who Rankin sat down with for an exclusive interview and cover shoot. In it, she digs her claws into the “crazy cat lady” smears by Brexiteer critics and doesn't hold back with her thoughts on truth, lies and data. “The thing about trying to report on propaganda is that you become a victim of propaganda," she says. "So you’ve got to own it. We have to turn their tools against them.”
And then there's Oliviero Toscani, the provocative photographer and mastermind of so many memorable campaigns for United Colors of Benetton, who tells our guest editor: "Advertising people are dealing with reality, but they think reality is not enough. They have to make it better or special... something more. They feel they have to add value to reality. Most of the time, this added value is fake."
Rankin also photographs Sir Martin Sorrell for the issue, with the advertising giant talking candidly to him about the politics surrounding big data in advertising, while Munroe Bergdorf shares with him her concerns about representation in the ad industry and about social media addiction.
The pursuit of honesty and general mistrust of big media is rife throughout the issue, with Jonathan Freedland offering his opinion on how the near-future dystopia of a world ruled by tech might look, while Matthew Todd bemoans the "rainbowing of the high street" and says it's "hard to know where the line is between genuine support and marketeering". Elsewhere, Alastair Campbell pens a think-piece on the peddling of lies around Brexit, asking: "Who is it that people believe if we don’t believe politicians, journalists, business people, academics and experts like we used to?"
The issue also includes interviews with Xiye Bastida (the 17-year-old climate activist who leads the Fridays for Futures student strikes movement across New York City and who explains more about the generation tasked with saving the world) and with Oobah Butler (the Vice journalist who puts his viral marketing mastermind to the test when he drops by for a game of Silicon Valley-inspired true or false).
Rankin said of the issue: “There is no better place than The Drum to ignite this debate. I commend them for driving it. We live in strange times and we are all worried. But what can we do? What is there to be done? How do we make a difference? These are just some of the questions we set out to prod, provoke and try to answer. Most of all, we wanted the issue to be hopeful and optimistic. It’s been a great issue to work on; heated debates, impassioned causes and the future of our industry, not to mention our planet!”
Inside the issue...
- Tooth and claw: Carole Cadwalladr is biting back. Rankin talks to the award-winning journalist about reclaiming the ’cat lady‘ smear.
- Schooled by Sorrell: Can our guest editor sell his agency to Sir Martin Sorrell? Rankin sits down with advertising’s biggest name to discuss the state of the industry.
- The price of truth: Few have paid the price for speaking the truth as spectacularly as Munroe Bergdorf. Rankin speaks to her about trans rights and cis wrongs.
- Life in colours: Rankin talks to Oliviero Toscani, the Italian photographer and art director famed for his work with Benetton, about truth and taboos.
- Alastair Campbell, the author, journalist and political aide, who asks: “Why do we say we want the truth and then we elect and reward proven liars?”
- Danny Wallace, the bestselling writer and broadcaster, who tells us about his absolute favourite Chinese beauty and lifestyle video blogger.
- Jonathan Freedland, the Guardian columnist and thriller writer, who says deepfakes make our future a lot more unreliable.
- Matthew Todd, author and former editor of Attitude, who questions shops using the rainbow flag to get customers through the door.
- Extinction Rebellion, who present us with an Agency Toolkit and suggest how everyone in the industry should help save the planet.
- Xiye Bastida, the 17-year-old climate activist who explains more about the generation tasked with saving the world.
- Oobah Butler, the writer, filmmaker and professional liar who drops by for a game of True or False.
- Michael Holden, the writer for print and screen who says data has seen us slip beyond consumerism to become the thing that is owned.