Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Republic of York

We began the day with Jan Bruce, Publisher and Managing Director of Body+Soul. She is clearly very happy with her job. She exudes the sort of happiness that makes you feel she has done yoga that very morning, before she put on a suit and returned to running her company. I like that "wholesome" energy - it's part of why I love Park Slope.

Anyway, the most notable things she shared with us were the ASME guidelines for magazines and life lessons she'd shared with her kids.

ASME's website advertises a contest for the best magazine cover of the year. Let me guess: it's not this week's New Yorker.

Her advice for us was:
Follow through
Ask for advice, but don’t necessarily take it
Don’t be shy about money
Ask a lot – take only what you need
People care that you know, when they know that you care
Do what you like
You need to have the work to have work/life balance
Be platform agnostic – the skills you use will be easily translatable
Speed kills, if you do not have it
Jump in - the water's warm

I'm not an especially good candidate for working in advertising, but she hit on something I really liked during her lecture: her son told her the word "pioneer" came from Roman times, referring to the people who dug trenches in front of soldiers during wartime. Latin derivatives are the greatest.

In the afternoon, we met three women from the PR department at Hearst magazines. I learned that Cosmopolitan magazine is the most internationally published magazine around, with 59 versions published worldwide. Jessica Kleiman, VP Public Relations, told us that the difference between advertising and PR is this: “Advertising you pay for, PR you pray for.”

She showed a few recent PR successes, among them the Ray/Ban promotion where 100 actors literally stopped traffic in the middle of downtown New York at 1 PM on a workday.

She also showed video clips from the Conan O'Brien debacle (Good Housekeeping had run a recipe they thought was his, and he announced twice on his show that it wasn't). Because Conan reported that he didn't know how to cook, the editor of Good Housekeeping came on the show with a batch of "his" Irish stew, and later the magazine brought him to their test kitchens to teach him how to cook this stew. That is unbelievably good PR.

Sara Crabbe, the Senior Manager of PR, gave examples of times national news aligned with articles the magazine had been planning to run, and made them particularly relevant. O Magazine was running a review of vegetarian burgers, and was about to go to press when the meat crisis popped up. CosmoGirl ended up running a story both on teenage girls' pregnancy pact and Jamie Lynn Spears's new tummy, titling the article "Pregnant on Purpose." Marie Claire's coverage of the Texas polygamy trial became “The Cult that Wants My Kids,” and made it on Nightline, Oprah, and Larry King Live. The summer that lawsuits arose over kids getting their crocs stuck in escalators, Good Housekeeping ran “Summertime Shoe Danger,” and made it into Inside edition and CBS. Even Popular Mechanics was hot - its article on gas prices, “The Truth About Oil” made Fox business news, and Glenn Beck (twice)!

(Again the New Yorker cover reared its head. She mentioned that it had sparked 10,700,000 news stories on Google.)

She talked about the Country Living Fair that was held in Mora, Ohio last year. I get a kick out of hearing New Yorkers talk about Ohio. They expected a turnout of 6,000, and received 20,000 instead. Yes, that's good PR. But it's also underestimating how much we Ohioans love leaving our farmland to drive to a gathering. You know I wait all year for the Fredrickstown Tomato Festival!

Anyway, they got the right idea and are setting this year's fair in Columbus. It's a pretty central space, and we always get plenty of turn-out for the Ohio State Fair and ComFest. I imagine they'll do well.

Tonight we heard from Luke Hayman of Pentagram. This is some of the best design we've seen in the program. He has worked and many recognizable magazine titles, and he showed us about 185 slides in under an hour and a half. I wish I had them to show you, but I'll just brief some of his (and his company's) experience.

For Time, they created a new cut of Franklin Gothic, went back to classic page layout, “stripped down” cartoony realism, added a lot of black and white. The focus changed to analyzing news instead of breaking it; it is, after all, a weekly. The internet is far better at breaking news than highlighting it. He helped redesign The Advocate, reworked the typography of Foreign Affairs, redesigned Radar (which has launched and folded three times in five years). Currently he is relaunching 02138, Vibe, Atlantic, Consumer Reports, and the Khaleej Times.

He focused much of the lecture on the three years he worked on New York Magazine. He showed a title page with a single image in the center, a dozen baguettes forming a circle. "If you have good imagery," he said, "black typography is the best frame for it."

He encouraged us all to read this article by Tom Wolfe on the man who invented New York Magazine, Clay Felker.

[Edit: Here's another article on Felker's contributions to journalism, via GalleyCat.]

Amidst all the New Yorker covers in my Google image search, I've found two of the visuals he shared with us. Here they are:

These are all examples of smart Jews, from an article on "the Jewish brain." I'm pleased Gilda Radner made it. What's incredible about this is that it's an amalgamation of black-and-white and color photographs, and the designers had to put it all together and go back and tint it! It comes together beautifully, and we could hear the pride in Hayman's voice as he described it.

He also showed a picture of New York City seceding from the Union, drawn forward by a single boat. It was for an article he says they do every few years, where the magazine talks about how different the city is from the rest of the country and how it should just become independent. This time they had a passport with an icon on the front for New York, gilded lettering on leather. And of course, they had currency:

Great, isn't it? Well, that's all for tonight. Let me know when you make it to the foreign land of the Big Apple.

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