After Over a Decade, The Economist Released Its First Brand Ad to Sustain Subscribers

What happens when the 'Trump bump' effect slows down?

A young woman narrates the spot, which shows her as a young girl asking questions while she watches TV and plays with her toys. The Economist

For the first time in more than 10 years, The Economist will run a brand ad.

Developed by Proximity and dubbed “Never Stop Questioning,” the 40-second spot from the London-based publication will run on broadcast channels in the United Kingdom (including Sky, Channel 4, ITV and Channel Five) and the United States (including CBS, NBC, Fox, ABC and News 12).

A young woman narrates the spot, which shows her as a young girl asking questions while she watches TV and plays with her toys. As the young woman grows older, she remains constantly curious until the end of the spot, which features her as a teacher, encouraging students in the classroom to ask questions.

Mark Cripps, CMO of The Economist, told Adweek that the ad was intended to emotionally appeal to audiences and motivate them to subscribe to the publication, which covers politics, business, science and technology. An annual print and digital subscription to The Economist is currently priced for U.S. readers at $190.

“We distilled all of our research and thinking and strategy to land on a single promise,” said Cripps. “The Economist helps you prepare for our future, their future, your future.”

As with many other publications, The Economist has seen an increase in readers surrounding the 2016 presidential race and subsequent election of Donald Trump to the White House. In November 2015, for example, the number of unique visitors to the publication’s website totaled more than 3.6 million. That figure rose to 5.2 million in November 2016 but fell a year later to 3.5 million. In November 2018, the site drew about the same number of readers as it did the previous year.

“We’ve had a couple of good years, thanks to a certain person in the White House,” among several other factors, Cripps said. He added that the company is “starting to see the Trump effect slow down a bit, and we thought this might … move us along.”

Other publications, like The New York Times (which has attributed an increase in subscribers to a Trump bump), have looked to attract new readers by releasing broad marketing campaigns. The Times’ most recent advertisements focused on the publication’s extensive investigative reporting.

The Economist has made moves to stay relevant even as a 175-year-old publication, when it debuted a new app last year and hosted a multi-city festival. In September, the festival made headlines when the publication kept an interview with Steve Bannon on the schedule, unlike editor in chief David Remnick at The New Yorker Festival, who pulled Bannon from his lineup after facing backlash online.

In April in 2018, The Economist combined its circulation and sales teams under a new COO and publisher, Michael Brunt.

@SaraJerde Sara Jerde is publishing editor at Adweek, where she covers traditional and digital publishers’ business models. She also oversees political coverage ahead of the 2020 election.