All posts by Andy Cowles

A brand and content workshop for ITV’s Loose Women

Client: ITV

Brief: Create a full-day offsite workshop to allow the full team of journalists and researchers to generate a ton of new ideas, along with a much stronger ownership of content themes.

Approach: Seven separate carefully designed sessions, including one where the team were split up and told they had been hired by Amazon, Hearst, Netflix and the BBC to create a competitor that would blow Loose Women out of the water.

Outcomes: A ton of ideas were created, particularly for the shows running through the summer. Editor in Chief Sally Shelford said: “Such a brilliant session! The team are still talking about it and we continue to use the material to this day’.

Loose Women’s ratings are currently up 7% year-on-year.

The September issue

bazaar-sept-2016It’s that time of year again, as made made famous by Vogue’s movie ‘The September Issue’. Sadly their cover this year is rubbish, with the rest of the market not much better.

But the clear winner is this brilliant Harpers’ cover. Aside from the access and technical perfection, it borrows heavily from sixties’ title Nova, which is no bad thing in my book. And the photographer? None other than Karl Lagerfeld. Bet he had a really good assistant.

And for real devotees, here’s a great story on the weight, spine thickness and pagination of all the September glossies. Ka-boom!


The Best-Ever Publishing Festival Line Up

PPA-festival-line-upI’m producer of the two big content streams at this year’s PPA festival, where along with CEO Barry McIlheney and his team we’ve put together the most fantastic line-up. Four stages, 60 speakers, CEO’s, MD’s Facebook, Google and…Mushpit!

The festival is Thursday May 12th, there’s still a few tickets left, buy them here.

Honest Andy’s Guide To The Annual PPA Front Cover Of The Year Chase

Welcome, fellow punters, to the annual PPA Front Cover Of The Year Chase, decided as always by public vote. You can cast yours here, but to guide you in your deliberations here is Honest Andy’s annual guide to this year’s big British race-off. . .

nme-rihannaNME (4-5 Favourite)

Rihanna looks by far the toughest filly in the field, and given her legions of adoring fans she must be a clear favourite to take this year’s trophy. Last year’s doping allegations are still swirling around, however, and there is concern that the stable lad seems to have turned out this most beautiful of creatures still wearing her rug. Odds-on though to bring it home on June 30.

442-zidaneFourFourTwo (2-1)

The legendary French stallion Zidane was for a while unbeatable at any distance until a stewards’ enquiry over a very public head-butting incident ended his brilliant career. Now he’s back, and with this sort of strong eye contact is expected to do very well.

stylist-comfort-foodStylist (4-1)

The most consistent stable in the field, producing winners week-in week-out. Comfort Food’s class is undoubted but may be just not quite energetic enough to succeed in this particularly tough race. Very nice touch though with those lovely knitted silks.

hot-rum-cow-nesbittHot Rum Cow (5-1)

Ladies Day this is not. Somehow Rab C. Nesbitt seems to have muscled up to the starting line riding a Highland cow and clutching a pint of Tennents. This contravenes every rule in the jockey club book, but then, that’s the joy of working out of a smaller yard such as White Light Media. I fully expect this Scottish insurgent to take out Heat at the first bend, but whether it has the legs to last the distance remains to be seen.

bazaar-rosieHarper’s Bazaar (8-1) 

Easily the best turned out, and with the nicest of silks. Exquisite breeding and carrying the lightest weight, Harper’s is certainly the purists’ pick here. This is no ordinary race though, the ground is soft, the going is tough, and I simply cannot see such a fine serif being able to stand up to some of the rougher boys here. I’m saying tears before bedtime for this one.

economist-trumpThe Economist (12-1)

This international stable tend to favour three-day eventing, where they can make their sophisticated business model and specialist appeal pay real dividends. This is the first time they’ve made the cut for a race such as this, so frankly, it’s a hard one to price. All that said, Honest Andy reckons this could be a good value each-way bet.

kentlife-magna-cartaKent Life (50-1)

An extraordinary bloodline stretching back 800 years makes this cover well worth its place in such a field. Training techniques have changed so much over the last few centuries however, that I’m not sure such an old warhorse will have the pace in the final furlong. That said, I can see it causing plenty of trouble with Country Life at the start.

country-life-shakespeareCountry Life (50-1)

Another storied bloodline, but with the advantage of having legendary jockey Will Shakespeare aboard. Tricky silks though, which will make it hard to track such a pastel affair on your TV.  Personally, I much prefer Will’s last outing in the excellent National Portrait Gallery, where he decimated a very strong field over a similar distance.

shortlist-400Shortlist (50-1)

Excellent bloodlines again here, but this one looks so sleepy there’s a real risk the public will simply overlook it. I suggest the stable slip something in its feed, and fast.

heat-cameronHeat (100-1) 

Getting Dave Cameron up top seemed like a good idea back in the day when he was winning every single race, but things have changed of late. Dave was a faller at Newbury, threw a shoe at Towcester and looks like he could be unseated at Westminster. If it can get past Hot Rum Cow it might show early but I expect it to fade before the last. And Heat should really change their silks, all that red and yellow is making my eyes go all funny and now I need to lie down for a bit.

Remember, cast your votes here and see you all for the weigh-in on June 30!


A new identity for American Airlines’ inflight portfolio

Lana-coverClient American Airlines

Brief To re-imagine American Way, Nexus and Celebrated Living, the inflight magazines and apps for the largest airline in the world.

Approach With a readership of nearly 200m people, American Way is the world’s longest standing and most famous in-flight magazine. To make the title a better fit between audience and brand, the design and content was completely overhauled. The result has a premium feel yet retains high levels of readability and ease of access.

The luxury quarterly Celebrated Living was similarly treated for American Airlines’ first class passengers, along with Nexus, the dual language title for the South American routes.

Sales comms were completely overhauled, the app redesigned under the Magplus platform, and a new art director recruited to work out of the Dallas office.

Outcomes Winning this account cemented Ink Global’s position as the world’s pre-eminent travel media company. New US accounts such as Amtrack have followed, along with yet more awards.

New logo

New logo

iPhone app produced under Magplus

iPhone app produced under Magplus

Debut cover, photographed by Andrew McPherson in LADebut cover, photographed by Andrew McPherson in LA


New logo

New logo

Development cover

Development cover

Development content

Development content

New logo

New logo

Debut issues of the portfolio

Debut issues of the portfolio

Before and after

Before and after

As seen en-route!

As seen en-route!

Would you buy a magazine from this man?

vendor-week-big-issueIn the world of publishing, the Big Issue has a unique business model, as it’s the transaction with the vendor that delivers so much of the value to the customer. This creates real tension throughout the sales process; are you paying for the journalism, or are you supporting a homeless person trying to make a go of something for themselves?

This week I found out for myself, as I took part in #vendorweek, celebrating the people who sell 112 different street papers throughout the world. Along with a bunch of editors, supporters and ‘personalities’ I had agreed  to don an official Big Issue vest and see how many copies I could shift in London’s Covent Garden.

But soon, standing alone outside Pandora I realised that the Big Issue tabbard appeared to have made me invisible. Not only that,  but the thing I was really selling here was myself, and my perceived plight.

All told, I sold two copies. The first was to a chap who just wanted to donate me a pound, but not take the magazine. I literally had to run back up the street to get him to take it back; ‘Nah, mate, I can’t take your quid if you can’t take the magazine’. At which point he relented and bought an issue. Fair enough.

By this point, I was getting no-where just asking folk to ‘buy the Big Issue’, so I had started to quote the cover story, a somewhat high concept piece about Sir Ian McKellen interviewed by Shakespeare, apparently.

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players’ begins the feature. This became my fairground barker schtick, the claim of a world first, a journalistic exclusive, and that it was all inside THIS, the very latest Big Issue.

But as before, blank indifference, perhaps a wry smile, that was it.

The indefatigable Paul McNamee is the editor of the Big Issue. He’s rightly won a sackful of honours and currently holds the PPA Cover Of The Year Award noted on this blog earlier. But if ever I wished for a different cover splash, this was it.  ‘Bloody Shakespeare, why can’t this be a Wogan cover’ I muttered, even though the issue had gone to press before he died.

Then, just as I was finishing my hour, a chap came from out of my eyeline and bought an issue. I hadn’t seen him before, he must have heard my pitch and come back.

At which point I experienced a true sense of accomplishment. Moreover, this man gave me the idea that I’d been seen, and accepted for who I was, or at least pretending to be.

All told, I’d made £2.50 profit for the Big Issue. But this last exchange was worth more than that to me, it gave me confidence that I could do this, that if needed, I could keep on going.

Thanks mate, much appreciated…

Increased 2016 newsstand sales with a brand new cover design

realhomes-emboss-437Client: Centaur Publishing

Objectives: To increase newsstand sales and subscriptions.

Approach: The homes market is tough, no more so than in the middle. Here, Ideal Home is the leader, followed by House Beautiful, and Good Homes with Real Homes bringing up the rear.

The approach centred on a dramatic new logo and a powerful new strapline that focussed on brand benefits as opposed to just the content. Real Homes’ USP is all about large scale renovations, the new design and presentation uses floor plans and detailed case studies to make that benefit Crystal clear. Inside/outside imagery is key to this, as demonstrated by the Luxury Cover above, beautifully designed by Senior Art Editor Emily Smith.

Outcomes: The relaunch issue sold 10% more YOY, with the longer term result of totally reinvigorating the brand.

real-homes-single-437 See more

Getting inside the closed world of professional comedy

Produced by me and directed by the talented Billy Boyd Cape, this new film tells the story of photographer Steve Best and the completely unique f.stop.funny project. Steve’s many years on the comedy circuit has allowed him to build real trust with some of the funniest people on earth: ‘Comedians are very suspicious, it’s hard to get that friendship if you’re not a stand-up’. These relationships have allowed him to take hundreds of intimate, documentary images that no-one else could ever get.

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