In late September, J. Walter Thompson's innovation think tank, JWT Intelligence, took some of its proprietary data on the habits of millennial and Gen Z women and decided that rather than publishing another study bogged down by numbers and graphs, it would present the information in a way that more brands and consumers could actually understand—in a women's print magazine.
"So often when you're presenting trends, it can seem somewhat intangible and quite often brands will come to us and say, 'What should I do with this data?'" said Lucie Greene, worldwide director of the Innovation Group at JWT. Greene's team created the magazine, titled Glass, mainly to present current and potential clients with digestible stories—from the benefits of co-working spaces to the evolving luxury landscape—that theoretically will help brands and the agency create more effective marketing campaigns.
JWT isn't alone in its foray into magazine publishing. Huge launched its own digital magazine, Magenta, in early October while R/GA continues to invest resources into its own title, FutureVision, which will be getting a print and digital redesign with the release of its Nov. 4 issue.
These aren't your typical agency publications, distributed internally each quarter and designed to highlight top work from within the network. The publications not only keep current staff up-to-date on important trends that will help inform their creative, but reach outside the agency as well.
"[Glass] is giving brands tangible pointers … and inspiration for things they could learn from, but it also communicates our own insights," explained Greene.
For R/GA, which originally created FutureVision as a way to inform employees and clients about the latest trends and technology, the print publication doubles as a tool the agency can use in pitches and strategy meetings with clients. "It became something clients began to ask for more and more. Eventually we started getting requests to do custom research, publications and briefings for our clients," said R/GA global CMO and FutureVision editor in chief Daniel Diez.
These magazines also help attract new talent—and different types of talent, including journalists—to the agency, according to Diez. On more than one occasion, he said, new hires have mentioned their interest in FutureVision and asked how they can get involved in the creation process.
The benefits for the agencies and their clients are certainly high, but analysts argue that if an agency opts to start its own magazine, it needs to be willing to invest enough time and resources and publish at regular intervals. "The content has to be really high-end, the articles need to be really smart and presented in a beautiful way," said Trevor Wade, global marketing director, Landor Associates. "Otherwise it can actually backfire and reflect poorly on the brand or agency."
R/GA, for example, has demonstrated its continued dedication to FutureVision by revamping the publication after its fourth year in print. The agency is including more strategists and planners in the magazine's creation process and working closely with the magazine's consulting arm. As a result, in future issues, "We will really begin to dig down at the granular level exploring things like automotive and airlines," Diez noted. The magazine's next issue will focus on virtual and augmented reality, which Diez said will hopefully draw more readers in and continue to position R/GA as a leader in new technology—which, ultimately, is the goal that most of these agencies are hoping to achieve with their forays into the publishing business.
This story first appeared in the October 24, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.