The Economist recreates famous Kissinger ad with Google’s Eric Schmidt

The Economist is recreating its famous Henry Kissinger ad from 1996 for a modern audience using Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt as it looks to build awareness of the brand and get more people along the path to purchasing a subscription.

The ad will appear on CNBC in Europe and Asia and go live on The Economist’s YouTube, Facebook and Twitter profiles. It shows a young man waiting to catch a lift, but as the doors close Schmidt stops them and walks in.

The Economist has been teasing the Henry Kissinger version of the ad, which showed an exec waiting to see who he would sit next to a flight before former Secretary of State Kissinger sits down, on Twitter and Facebook. That video has already been viewed more than 1 million times.

The magazine has also released a photo of the back of Schmidt, asking social media users to guess who the new star of the ad might be.

The campaign continues the Economist’s “Broaden Your Horizons” messaging, hoping to communicate the idea that if people read the Economist they’ll know what to talk to Schmidt about.

Speaking to Marketing Week The Economist’s managing director of global circulation, Michael Brunt, said that Kissinger was representative of the magazine’s audience at the time and the hope is that Schmidt, who is a non-executive director of the magazine, represents the new profile of The Economist reader, which tends to be younger, liberal and more digitally savvy.

He admits The Economist had largely moved away from more traditional ad formats in favour of digital as the magazine’s audience moved more onto tablets and smartphones. He claimed the brand gets relatively high click-through rates of around 1% on digital by offering ads tailored to what people have read before on its site and third-party sites such as the Guardian and BBC Worldwide.

On its programmatic ad buys, which focus on sites with interests that might match those of its readers such as career sites, the economy or “doing good”, those click-through rates are 0.4%.

He said The Economist is always on “the hunt for the perfect balance” between generosity with its articles and tipping people so they can’t help but subscribe. Using digital, he claimed to be able to get “prospects for pennies”.

However, through investments to improve its customer data, Brunt said The Economist saw an opportunity to invest further in audience development, rather than conversion. To start with that meant offering more links to articles rather than subscription offers to put the brand front of mind.

The move to recreate the Kissinger ad was a culmination of that strategy as The Economist increases its marketing strategy to ensure it continues to grow its subscriber base.

It currently has a circulation across digital and print of 1.6 million of which around 11% are exclusively digital, a shift that Brunt described as a “migration but not an exodus. The Economist is targeting the 75 million people-strong audience of what it terms “the progressives”, a psychographic group that share interests such as globalisation, their careers and the economy.

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