Field Reports1 Feb, 2009 By: Thomas Haire, Jacqueline Renfrow Response
By Thomas Haire ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
Maguire Calls Breakthrough Esquire Cover a Boon for Advertisers
Mike Maguire is CEO and principal owner of Essex, Conn.-based Structural Graphics, a leader in design and production of high-impact dimensional marketing solutions. He joined the company in 1992 and has a long history in the direct-to-consumer marketing space. In late 2008, Structural Graphics broke new ground by working with Esquire Magazine and Ford Motor Co. on a special electronic cover for the magazine's 75th anniversary issue. Recently, Response chatted with Maguire about the process of creating the cover and working with Ford as the key advertiser on the inside cover.
Q How did the idea for the Esquire cover come about?
A The process started about two years ago. Hearst, which owns Esquire, was an investor in a company called E Ink, a creator of the electronic ink technology used on the cover. About a year ago, with Esquire's 75th anniversary coming, the Hearst team began looking at ideas for the cover that were memorable and forward looking. We've been showing this technology to publications for years, but things came together this time, as we were pitching within Hearst while the Esquire team was meeting with E Ink. When it came together, we were the natural fit.
Q Can you walk me through the process with Esquire in creating the cover piece?
A First came the creative dream of putting this technology in the cover. Second came the question, "Can you execute this technology and, if so, what's the best way to execute it?" And finally, we had to answer, "How does this get into the magazine cover?" It was a creative collaboration with E Ink. One of the big issues was the battery charge. How can we make the graphics last? What's the length of the charge? Then, when Ford got involved as an advertiser, it threw a curve ball into the process — lighting a second panel, a new processor, an additional battery. The key was for the production team to take the theoretical to the practical. Once the electronic piece was configured, a prototype was sent to us to work on the physical magazine structure. We did five bindery tests with various electronic components to ensure that the piece would survive the binding process. A piece of foam is built into the cover, designed to cushion the electronics and to make sure the bumpiness of the batteries didn't dimple through. The technology works with a hair-thin pixel, charged black or white. But how do you make it appear in color? We used printed Mylar, which helped aesthetically by giving the appearance of color and also helped give the screen protection. At the same time, we found that any heat has an effect on battery life, so the final product was shipped out in air-conditioned trucks.
Q Did the cover positively affect newsstand sales?
A We monitored sales through our offices, and many outlets sold out the first day. It's an amazing piece from a collector's standpoint — one of a kind. It was a home run from a press standpoint. The PR was great and helped Esquire get press for its anniversary, as well.
Q How can marketers best utilize this technology to drive response in different kinds of pieces?
A One of the things that Hearst got right was the way it talked about the technology — it's the merging of new technology into a traditional format. It doesn't replace a channel, but enhances it. What makes Esquire special to its readers is its look and feel. This technology was used to enhance that experience. From an advertising perspective, we all know that there's a real challenge to break through the clutter. This technology and others will help advertisers differentiate and break through. As you look down the road, you will be able to utilize technology like this — RFID — to close the loop between an interactive experience and print. It can create a content-rich, relevant, customized interaction with the customer.
Q What was Ford's reaction to the process and the outcome?
A The Ford team was very excited about it. It's one thing to be the first magazine to use this, but another to be the first advertiser using a brand new, cutting-edge media. Because Ford was marketing its new Flex, which is positioned as hip and high-tech, the Ford team was thrilled with this new technology and the positioning it afforded them.