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The Big Issue’s first digital editor on using the web to push print

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The Big Issue may have just appointed its first digital editor but the magazine will remain resolutely print-first according to the man who’s taken the post.

Ben Sullivan, who was previously UK editor of Vice Media’s science and technology site Motherboard, is walking into an environment that is unique in the UK publishing landscape.

At a time when decades-old magazines such as NME are closing because they can’t make print pay, The Big Issue’s business model – indeed its entire reason for being – depends upon it.

Founded in 1991 to give the homeless a “hand up not a handout”, the weekly magazine is distributed by some of the poorest people in society who buy copies for £1.25 and sell them on the street for £2.50, keeping the profit.

This modus operandi presents an intriguing challenge for its new digital editor, who has been tasked with growing awareness of the brand online but needs to do so while ushering newfound visitors towards its primary and essential fundraising model – print.

“The Big Issue is first and foremost the magazine,” says Sullivan.

“We want to make the website a kind of 'The Big Issue Plus' destination. There’s a lot we can do to increase the awareness of the website and make BigIssue.com a destination for all sorts of people who are consuming news.”

In print, The Big Issue does not home in on audience demographics in the way that most magazines do, where readers are segmented according to gender, age and so on. Its sellers never know what type of person will be coming down the pavement to buy a copy, and therefore wide editorial appeal is required to put the most possible amount of pounds in their pockets.

The approach is working. While other print titles are seeing their circulations shrinking, the Big Issue’s is growing – up by a modest 1% to 83,073 in 2017 but up by 7% over the last three years, according to the ABCs.

Sullivan says the website has a similarly broad readership but thinks there is an opportunity to reach a younger audience who may not be accustomed to paying for media but do feel strongly about supporting causes that matter to them.

“We’re a trusted brand on the high street and we really want to cement our presence online to be able to support the organisation, and let people know why we exist and what we’re doing," said Sullivan..

“We have an opportunity now to reach a younger audience as well. They’ve grown up aware that The Big Issue’s on the street but because they’re digital-only, mobile-only, they perhaps might not buy the magazine. We’re looking to widen our audience completely and let everyone in."

He added: “Our end goal is dismantling poverty. Ultimately people do want to pay for that and people are happy to put their money behind a really great cause. I think that’s going to be successful in getting a younger audience to put their hand in the pocket.”

Sullivan is planning podcasts, video and mini-documentaries to lure those new audiences and complement the print product. “We talk to a lot of amazing people and we want to make those conversations available to a wider audience online, which will also raise awareness of The Big Issue magazine," he explained.

“[We’re planning] all sorts of multimedia. It will heavily involve our team of vendors and the people who are supporting the Big Issue, giving them the message of The Big Issue and reinforcing that we’re out on the street as well.”

And when it comes to measuring success, Sullivan says there’s one metric that matters above all. “Ultimately that’s measuring the awareness of The Big Issue brand in the UK. Anything we can do to help that is bang on.”

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Vice overhauls its UK Studios division

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Vice has overhauled its Studios division in the UK which has seen managing director Kevin Sutcliffe depart, not to be replaced.

Sutcliffe joined Vice in 2013 from Channel 4, where he was deputy head of news and current affairs, taking on the managing director role for Studios last August.

According to Variety – which broke the news – with his exit the role will not be replaced. Instead, the former general manager for Viceland, CJ Fahey, has been promoted to general manager for Vice TV and Studios across EMEA which will see him take on responsibility for Vice’s TV and Studios output.

Fahey was most recently responsible for negotiating the landmark deal to bring 900 hours of Vice content to Channel 4’s digital platform, All 4.

In addition to Sutcliffe’s exit and Fahey’s promotion, Yonni Usiskin has also been given the creative director role at Vice Studios in the UK.

The overhaul of the Studios team is part of a wider attempt from Vice bosses to unite the UK Studios and TV business (Viceland) units under one leadership team.

It follows several rounds of redundancies across the global business, which has seen Vice lose approximately 2% of its 3,000 US employees and 4% of Vice’s 400-strong EMEA workforce.

It has also made a number of crucial high-profile hires in the last six-months, including Nancy Dubuc as CEO and former Havas executive Dominique Delport as chief revenue officer.

Elsewhere, the BBC’s Tamara Howe was also appointed to the newly created role chief content officer for EMEA earlier this year.

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Government U-turns: it will consider junk food TV ad ban under new plan to curb child obesity

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The government is to begin talks on a potential ban of junk food advertising on TV before the 9pm watershed as part of a range of new measures announced today (24 June) to halve the number of obese children by 2030.

The government’s latest obesity plan follows the first “chapter” which was released in 2016, which brought in the fizzy drinks tax and a voluntary scheme for the food industry to reduce the amount of sugar in food and drink.

The 2016 plan also introduced tougher rules around advertising to under-16s across non-broadcast media (print, cinema, online and social media), but the government opted not impose regulations on marketing of junk food, a move welcomed by advertisers.

However, it has since faced pressure from a number of organisations, including Cancer Research, to ban adverts for foods high in fat and sugar prior to the 9pm watershed.

The government has since conceded, saying it will begin consultations on introducing new TV and online advertising restrictions “to prevent children from being targeted by these unhealthy products, and to incentivise companies to reduce the sugar and calories in the products they sell.”

It said this could include extending the current advertising watershed and limit the number of unhealthy food adverts shown during children’s programmes up to 9pm.

In the interim, the government has called on industry to “recognise the harm that adverts for foods high in fat, sugar and salt can cause.”

However, industry bodies have not welcomed the U-turn from the government.

“International experience and independent research has shown advertising bans have little impact on the wider societal issues that drive obesity, which is caused by the interaction of many complex factors and requires a multi-faceted solution,” said Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association.

“Here in the UK, interventions such as The Daily Mile in schools have been successful as they are simple, cost-free and inclusive and not only impact on obesity levels, but improve behaviour, academic performance and children’s wellbeing. This is exactly the sort of partnership needed to tackle Britain’s obesity challenge.”

James Barge, director of public affairs at ISBA said there is “no silver-bullet” to reducing childhood obesity and stressed the need for a “holistic and multi-dimensional response.”

“As such, whilst we oppose the blunt instrument of a 9pm watershed we will, as an evidence-led industry, support steps which can be proven to proportionately reduce children’s exposure to HFSS advertising,” he said.

“ISBA looks forward to seeing more details of the government’s proposed approach and to engaging constructively with a view to shaping a simple, evidence-led and proportionate outcome which supports the aim of meaningfully reducing childhood obesity levels.”

Tim Rycroft, director of corporate affairs at the Food and Drink Federation, added: “While the commitment to full consultation on these measures is welcome, tthere will be deep disquiet in the food and drink manufacturing sector. Advertising and promotions underpin the healthy, vibrant and innovative market for food and drink that UK shoppers love.”

Under the new obesity plan, the government will also consult on a ban on the sale of energy drinks to children.

More immediate action will see the ushering in of new regulation to ban shops from offering special ‘two for the price of one’ deals for food high in sugar, fat or salt alongside rules which will require restaurants and takeaways to show the number of calories clearly on menus.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “It is near impossible to shield children from exposure to unhealthy foods. Parents are asking for help – we know that over three quarters of parents find offers for sugary sweets and snacks at checkouts annoying.

“It’s our job to give power to parents to make healthier choices, and to make their life easier in doing so.”

According to official figures, one in three children in the UK are now obese by the time they leave primary school.

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Party police raids, drug ‘stings’ & divas: The Drum's Cannes Lions 2018 gossip column

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Cannes Lions is over for another year, but as the rosé turns sticky on the floor of the Gutter Bar and you think of ways to explain the ROI on entertaining clients with €30 burrata every night to your finance manager, there’s one thing that’s sure to follow you home on that Jet2 flight – all the gossip.

What happens in Cannes famously doesn’t stay in Cannes. The Drum’s moles were on the ground, and our very own pub – The Drum Arms – which gave us plenty of access to the scandals happening behind the scenes.

Find out what went on away from the buzz of the Palais from noise complaints to entitled celebrities, The Drum's drummers causing chaos on the strip and the magnetic pull of Sir John Hegarty… ooh la la indeed.

Duty free

A French air traffic control strike the weekend before Cannes led to topsy-turvy, rerouted trips across Europe for hundreds of delegates on route to the Riviera; we heard of attendees flying via Cologne, Milan and even Luxembourg to make sure they didn’t miss that 9am breakfast meeting.

But which programmatic supremo was spotted making the most of his delayed flight in the airport bar? His penchant for Gatwick’s champagne led to an impulsive – and most likely expensive – Lacoste shopping spree.

Don’t call it a comeback

He may have lost the ‘most powerful man in advertising’ crown but yet again Sir Martin Sorrell managed to become the biggest story of the week. There were plenty of whispers about whether he'd show up to Cannes following the events of recent months – but oddly, we’ve rarely seen him look so relaxed. Some attendees even asked The Drum what we were really planning on doing, assuming the interview at the pub was really a publicity stunt (as if we would ever…!)

But from the moment he arrived at The Drum Arms for his first post-WPP interview (through the back door, naturally) it was clear that the outspoken bean counter was back with a vengeance.

After laying into the big six networks, the Financial Times’ reporting and WPP’s handling of his resignation, he slipped out faster than you can say ‘Q&A’.

Martin Sorrell on why he wants Mark Read and Andrew Scott to replace him as co-CEOs #thedrumcannes https://t.co/3lp8PKQpsd pic.twitter.com/slwCT3EK5s

— The Drum (@TheDrum) June 21, 2018

He recycled a handful of pre-prepared jokes when he spoke at the Palais on Friday, however the audience was less sympathetic to the freshly tanned millionaire: delegates booed as he filibustered his own session instead of answering questions from journalist Ken Auletta.

Do ad execs shit in the woods?

Which glamorous party had a distinct lack of toilets for the 500+ people it invited to its celeb-filled celebration? One desperate marketer charmingly told The Drum staff he was going to do a Bear Grylls and “poo in the woods”.

It’s not clear if he was joking or not but he did wander off into the night, which begs the question: if a client does a number two in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Diva on the docks

This East End pop star embraced her inner Mariah Carey this week. When arriving at the port for a night on the yachts she refused to leave her bejewelled high heels on the jetty, forcing staff to choose between a great PR opportunity and their boat hire deposit.

Later, when the same London diva was refused entry to an over-capacity agency party she loudly declared the shop’s comms director was a “jobsworth” in front of their colleagues. It must have been a damned good party! Brits abroad, eh?

A sticky situation

The Carlton’s unfathomable pricing strategy leaves many a suit feeling extorted when the bill arrives. But which creative director was stung big time by Cannes’ hustling drug dealers?

After requesting a wrap of unidentified white powder and paying out €200, his teenage vendor scarpered into the night. Only later did he realise he was actually the proud owner of a rolled-up wrap of sticky tape.

Cooking doesn’t get tougher than this

This year’s News UK party, once again hosted a atop a giant hill at the Château de Garibondy was an absolute hive of gossip. With a set from Kylie, Idris Elba and Fatboy Slim on the decks and a pool stocked with pink flamingos, the glitz and glamour was unrivaled elsewhere.

Aussie chef John Torode was even spotted cooking up a storm at the BBQ, but The Drum’s roving reporters couldn’t help but notice he looked grumpier than a unsuccessful Masterchef contestant.

To be fair, it’s probably not much fun grilling brisket in the blistering heat while drunken ad execs guzzle elderflower gin and tonics around you. It looked like he cheered up a bit later though, when he and his wife Lisa Faulkner got a snap with the Spinning Around singer.

Great night with @JohnTorode1 & @lisafaulkner1 in charge of the #bbq tonight at #newschateau!! & a M&G with @kylieminogue what a party pic.twitter.com/QRD0hh8Yqs — Sean Fitzpatrick (@MySeanySean) June 21, 2018

The crowd went absolutely wild for Kylie, with one chief marketing officer dancing non-stop for the whole session and another top creative giving it his all during Can't Get You Out of My Head.

Praise you like I should

Fatboy Slim, meanwhile, wins the Gold Lion for nicest celebrity of the festival. We heard he spent an hour before his set hanging out with fans and taking pictures. Eat, sleep, network, repeat, right?

Post-party chaos

It's a shame then, that the plug was literally pulled on Fatboy Slim's set. Organisers were believed to have been sticking to strict timings to avoid catching the attention of the French police; a plan which ultimately failed.

The Drum understands News UK was issued fines of €60 and then €1,000. Hearsay on the ground said this was due to noise complaints, but as more officers showed up just as the party was ending, rumours swirled that it was because a rowdy group of underage teenagers wanted to rave to Fatboy.

The police presence then stopped planned pick-up cars from driving up to collect worse-for-wear guests from the château. This resulted in dozens of high-heeled delegates winding their way down a steep, tree-lined hill in the pitch black to hitch a ride back to their hotels – lions, and tigers and swears, oh my!

Heartthrob Hegarty

In case you were wondering, Sir John Hegarty has still got it. After he spoke at a press conference, the scenes of female fans flocking for some facetime with the BBH founder were akin to Channing Tatum’s media lounge appearance in 2016. One journalist even invited him to spend a holiday with her in Colombia – whenever, wherever!

Sacré bleu!

Which restaurant along Le Croisette doesn’t believe in ‘going dutch’ – or, indeed #TimesUp? During one dinner, we were told waiting staff handed out gender-specific menus where the women don’t see the prices.

Staff from one media firm were shocked to discover this when they noticed that only the sole male of the group could see the cost on the menu he was handed. Lucky fella.

No cameras please

This US star came to the speaker's corner of the press lounge to talk business, but was left frustrated after the reporting media failed to ask any her questions at all about the announcement she made.

She rolled her eyes when a bunch of journalists instead swarmed around her for videos and selfies once she was done.

On the ball

Speaking of celebs, did we mention that we interviewed former England manager Sam Allardyce?

In conversation before the England v Tunisia game at the TalkSport bar, he predicted the right score and told us over a Guinness that he doesn’t think Stevie G, Frank Lampard or Joey Barton will still be in a job come next summer.

sam allardyce the drum

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Here he is with The Drum's video producer Jamie McMurray and editor Stephen Lepitak.

Jambon ou fromage?

A journalist’s diet at Cannes usually consists of aspirin, coffee and rosé, accompanied by agency dinners if you're lucky or McDonald’s if you're not. But this year it all changed with the introduction of the press room buffet – a revelation that appeared around 3pm every day.

On the Monday there was cheese and bread. On the Tuesday there was ham and bread. Rumours spread that the much-anticipated French coupling of cheese AND ham would arrive on the Wednesday. But alas – never the two did meet.

Band on the run

We were so enamored with The Drum’s new branding that we flew a band of drummers from London to France for the week. Their job was to disrupt the industry – literally – with the harmonious sounds of banging and hollering. Unfortunately, not everyone was a fan.

The police and event security asked the troop to “allons-y!” on several occasions, and Campaign sent them packing from outside their 50th birthday celebrations.

The biggest reaction came when the band surprised our friends at Ad Age – and were subsequently manhandled out of the area.

Show me entity :: 20943

The Drum's editor-in-chief and founder Gordon Young even got involved in the action earlier on in the week. Here he is leading the merry band in front of a refined audience at the Gutter Bar.

Show me entity :: 20946

All stood up

Which social figure left The Drum reporters waiting 90 minutes for an interview? After an hour and a half of waiting (with only frantic texts from her PR to give us hope) we gave up – only to land an interview with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, aka Game of Thrones' Jaime Lannister, a few boats down. Both his hands were fully operational.

ForgetfulLAD

Which well-known industry PR was said to have his laptop at the Lad Bible villa, only to realise it was missing on is way to the airport. His cab had to turn around so he could return to collect the computer.

It's not clear whether he left it during the social publisher's party on the Tuesday night, which looked a bit like a session at the Love Island villa.

Live From The @ladbible Villa Pool Party #Cannes pic.twitter.com/70fuAdvm7n — DJ Luck & MC Neat (@LucknNeat) June 19, 2018

There's no doubt the Lad Bible crew were partying hard the rest of the week, since the group's 'Trash Isles' campaign scooped a number of Lions.

Too brave?

The Marketing Society's well-intentioned 'brave'-themed lunch proved a bit too bold for some attendees, with one unadventurous guest suggesting that even Heston Blumenthal might have snubbed some of the concoctions on offer.

Can't fight the moonlight

One Australian agency got a bit excitable in the car on its way to one of the many events. As the poor driver weaved his way through the rolling Riviera hills, too much pre-8pm rosé (we heard them say they paid €350 for a bottle) had gone to the execs' heads.

Unprompted, one of the group put LeAnn Rimes' 90s classic Can't Fight the Moonlight on full blast in the backseat, loudly singing along and trying to get our reporters to dance. We preferred the original.

You can follow all The Drum's Cannes Lions coverage here, with more exclusives and one-on-one interviews to follow next week.

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