Gone are the days when the only way for a brand to get their message in front of millions of eyeballs was through a newspaper, magazine or broadcaster. That’s part of the reason why main media ad-spend is consistently growing at a slower rate than other forms of advertising, advertising in areas where publishers don’t have as much of a foothold.

Consquently publishers are having to reappraise what they’re bringing to the table, if it’s not a role as a necessary intermediary between brand and audience. The majority have concluded that the quality of their brand can act as a mutliplying factor for the brand message, almost as a magnifying lens that emphasises the message to a greater extent than the brand could convey on its own. 

ESI Media has long enjoyed the direct access to an audience at scale through its line of titles including the Evening Standard and the Independent. Jon O’Donnell, the managing director of ESI Commercial, believes the halo effect around the titles is something that can’t be replicated by an advertiser on its own:

“It’s about using trusted publishers as a conduit to create environments in which brands and consumers can talk and can engage and have a relationship. That’s the role we can play in it which I don’t think it’s possible for [brands] to do on their own, which is why it’s becoming a bigger and bigger part of the media blend.”

O’Donnell is excited about the ability of the group to expand that halo effect from its print titles to the increasing amount of related products the group puts out, based around the Indy and Evening Standard:

“The Independent is an influencer on a global scale now, and the Evening Standard is effectively our London powerhouse. Between the two of them, [brands] know that if they want to activate and engage upmarket London then the Standard not just the newspaper but as a collection of brands and live experiences effectively acts as an interface towards activating those audiences.”

With events like The Progress 1000 and the Evening Standard business awards under its belt, and having produced the Evening Standard Theatre Awards for over 50 years, ESI Media has recognised that there is the opportunity to grow its events arm ESI Live through the production of more consumer-facing events, where it can more fully own that intermediary position between brand and audience again. 

O’Donnell explains that the launch of more consumer facing events (including a London food festival he describes as being the ‘Edinburgh festival of food’) was based on the ESI Media team realising that the skills they had learned from other areas of the business that benefited their partners could be translated to an events business. He said:

“One of the reasons why events as part of the media mix have become so important is… when you look at the decline of the high street and the rise of e-tailing, it’s left a bit of a hole where customers no longer come face to face with a brand to the degree that they used to.

“Whether that’s sampling or other experiential opportunities that aren’t available online, the idea of the events team is that we can bring audiences to brands through creating these live content experiences in verticals such as business, theatre, fashion, film, food and all of those kind of things.”

He believes that by ensuring ESI launches those events in verticals in which they have particular editorial experience – and a reputation for the same – the halo effect will confer significant benefits to all parties involved, whether it be increasing sales for the brands present at the events, by ensuring the audience has the best possible experience and that ESI can benefit from both. Consquently when deciding in which space to launch an event, ESI considers the following three questions:

  • Where do we have heritage, content and journalists?
  • Where do we know that an audience is engaging with that content?
  • Which areas do we know there are people looking for sponsorship or brand activation where there is potentially not anything in the market?

By considering those questions, ESI is attempting to ensure it retains its position as a trusted intermediary between audience and brand. As O’Donnell said:

“The truth is that everybody’s become a media owner, everybody is trying to create content. I think for us as a premium content provider I think it’s important for us to make our position clear within that space.”

While it’s still early days for ESI’s consumer-facing events, other publishers like Time Out have demonstrated that porting that credibility across while retaining an audience can be hugely beneficial. As more ad-spend starts flowing towards events and experiential occasions, it’s heartening to see that ESI has recognised that its editorial expertise and content credibility can translate from print to other product types.


Jon O’Donnell will be speaking on broadening a product portfolio and encouraging deeper partnerships at Digital Media Strategies ’17 next week. For more information on speakers or to book your ticket, click here.