Jeff Hamill, a W&L alumnus and parent, is the executive v.p. for sales and marketing at Hearst Magazines, the biggest and most successful magazine company in the world. His good news to us: “Print is not dead.” This needed explanation, as we sat around a table in his conference room on 12th floor of the Hearst Tower.
Hamill did not deny that magazines are in danger in this digital age. But he pointed out that glossy lifestyle magazines are a form of entertainment—entertainment that he believes people will pay for, if the company knows what its audience wants.
Hearst is one of the few companies that has mastered this task. In fact, 2015 was Hearst’s most profitable year yet, Hamill said. According to Hamill, print sales actually increased by roughly 10 percent in 2015.
Hamill said this success was a direct result of audience engagement, “figuring out what the audience wanted and knowing how to scale it.” To help us understand this concept of “engagement”— the driving factor for his advertising strategy in the digital age—he showed us examples of native advertising campaigns he and his team had recently created. “Native advertising,” while still labeled as corporate-sponsored, is produced by the magazine staff to have more of the look and feel of the rest of the magazine.
One of Hamill’s examples was a campaign he and his team created for Chevrolet—a company he said couldn’t seem to shake its old reputation and grow its client pool in more modern times. This campaign created multiple ads with the same overall theme or message, but tweaked according to which magazine they were placed in.
Furthermore, these ads were only placed in certain issues for a specific target audience—an audience Hearst identified through big data as “Malibu people.” Hamill said his team takes the research from each magazine, or outside marketing companies, and uses this demographic data to figure out which ads to place in which issues before they’re mailed to individual subscribers. Yes, it’s expensive, but they can charge advertisers more for this.
Another company, Revlon, came to Hamill with hopes of updating its image. Revlon wanted to brand itself as more “provocative” and be seen as a brand that helps empower women. So, Hamill and his team developed the #GoBold campaign, a webisode series and contest between three young women, to help launch this new image.
Hamill said video was the perfect medium for “engagement,” and the Revlon campaign was one of Hearst’s most successful campaigns so far.
— Julia Gsell