Open Future: Behind The Economist’s Successful Campaign



During #SMWNYC, CEO of The Economist, Mark Cripps, discussed its multi-channel strategy for ‘Open Future,’ an initiative to remake the case for progressive values and policies in the 21st century.

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In 2018, The Economist, an incredibly forthright and expressive paper, ran a campaign to mark its 175th year. It took the entire “ignorance gets in the way of progress” ethos of its late founder, James Wilson, and invented the new initiative of an Open Future in order to remake the case of his liberal values.

The campaign

Conversations ran on all social media and platforms and a global event, that was a one day exercise, took place in Hong Kong, London, and New York simultaneously on the day of the companies founding. The campaign gained so much traction and maintained longevity that The Economist is running it again this year, on October 5th, this time in Chicago, Manchester and Hong Kong.

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The company outlined it’s main KPI’s and started from there. They wanted to engage younger audiences for liberal thoughts and knew social media was the best way to do this. They also arranged intended conversations around five key topics: diversity and identity politics, free speech and debate, migration and refugees, free trade and economics and technology and innovation.

Create a central traffic hub

In order to run a campaign well, you must create a central hub to drive all your traffic to and accumulate your data. The Economist allowed audiences to have conversations in real time with journalists and third-party members on theirs. They also produced two videos each week which could be located in the hub, too. They ran podcasts, invited audiences to write their own essays, took a debate series around the top schools in the US and streamed it. They brought in people against the very essence of what they believed in order to reinforce the message of free speech and progress. This notion demanded attention and a reaction.

Promotional tactics

They also promoted their content by PR, display advertising, direct buys, interactive posters, and experiential marketing.

As a result, The Economist reached more than half a billion touches as result of the campaign. They touched 433.5m organic social, 76.9m paid, 50.2m engaged with content, 5.3m podcast downloads, 3.4m visitors on Open Future hub, (61% of whom were new – people they hadn’t seen in 90 days) and 9k new subscribers. The Open Future videos were seen by more than 1.8m new people.

Ultimately though, they hit their main KPI of attracting a younger demographic. The most popular age of those who engaged was 28-years-old. Their social media hit 44 million people around that age, too.

The Economist’s campaign highlights the key ingredients for a rewarding marketing campaign: create a central hub, integrate across various channels and put in solid and clear KPI’s so you can make sure everything is strong and measurable.

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