The Economist's Bizarre Baltimore Blitz
When a Test Is Not a Test
March 28, 2006: Vol. 2, Issue No. 24
IN THE NEWS
A Magazine's Blitz of Baltimore
The Economist, the venerable weekly published by the British company Pearson, is using Baltimore—chosen because it is a typical American market for the magazine—to test a new effort to increase newsstand and subscription sales, along with brand awareness. The test involves employees of the magazine and four agencies on both sides of the Atlantic. The test, costing an estimated $500,000, is unleashing a panoply of advertising and promotional efforts on metropolitan Baltimore. Among them are posters, print advertisements, banner ads on Web sites, radio commercials, direct mail, local events, signs at newsstands and a public relations campaign.
—Stuart Elliott, The New York Times, March 20, 2006
Many years ago—long before 24/7-cable news and the Internet—I was a regular subscriber to The Economist, a highbrow, dense, British-based newsweekly.
I would let my subscription lapse, then miss it and sign up again, only to find it brilliant, but a guaranteed cure for insomnia.
A long time circulation consultant to The Economist sent me an RFP to write and design a direct mail acquisition effort to bring in new subscribers.
I sent back a frankly nutty proposal that was shot down within two minutes of its hitting the desk of Marjorie Scardino (today Pearson's Chief Executive).
When I learned the reason for the rejection, I thought they were nuttier than my proposal.
When I read last week that The Economist is planning a test using four agencies here and in the UK to blow $500,000 on a six-week, multi-channel, multi-media assault on Baltimore in hopes of getting a bump in awareness and circulation, I was filled with a deep sense of dread.
My Off-the-Wall Proposal to The Economist