Campaigns: Iconic titles go cover to cover

Magazine Week looks into the best magazine covers ever

Exterminate: Radio Times' Doctor Who cover
Exterminate: Radio Times' Doctor Who cover

Campaign The Great Cover Debate
Client PPA
PR team Leader
Timescale April-October 2008
Budget £20,000-£30,000

The Periodical Publishers Association (PPA) launched Magazine Week in 2007 as an annual celebration of what makes the magazine sector unique. The week enc­ourages existing magazine buyers to try other titles, as well as defending and developing magazine space in-store. Leader was brought in to create the consumer campaign to support Magazine Week 2008.


To raise awareness of Magazine Week 2008

To drive traffic to the Magazine Week website

To engage consumers, magazine publishers, editorial teams and other media channels in the promotion of magazines.


The Leader team knew it had to convince competing publishers to work together at a time when promotional budgets were under massive pressure so it came up with The Great Cover Debate – where readers voted for their all-time favourite magazine cover.

Magazine editors were invited to submit ideas and a shortlist of 16 was drawn up, including the first ever issue of The Face from 1980 and Victoria and David Beckham’s wedding in OK magazine.

All 16 were then uploaded on to the Magazine Week website and the Leader team worked with the titles to promote the story and deb­ate. This resulted in the Radio Times running a ‘Vote Dalek’ banner and Condé Nast featured the story on its ezine which is sent to subscribers. Most featured the covers on their websites, usually inc­luding a link to the Magazine Week website, where readers could vote.

Details of the shortlist were announced but the team decided not to try to attract other magazines with the story, reasoning these would be unlikely to promote their competitors, and instead targeted the nat­ionals, broadcast media and websites.

It added a further twist by inviting Paddy Power to post the odds of each shortlisted cover winning.

The team also made sure Facebook, blogs and fanzines of the celebrities featured on the covers picked up and debated the story – for example, it contacted the Kevin Keegan online fan club to encourage members to vote for his cover.

The Great Cover Debate winner was the Radio Times featuring the Daleks on Westminster Bridge during the 2005 general election. Leader recreated the shoot, featuring a staff member reading a magazine next to a Dalek, and sent the photo to nat­ional picture desks.

It arranged another photo call – primarily for trade media – to unveil the winning cover at the WHSmith store on Victoria Station to launch Magazine Week.

Aside from the Great Cover Debate, the team encouraged magazine retailers to hold live events, which the Borders chain developed into Magazines Live, a week of events along with a ‘buy one get one half price’ promotion across the category.

Measurement and evaluation

The Great Cover Debate generated more than 270 pieces of coverage including lengthy interviews on BBC Breakfast and Sky News. Websites such as GMTV, The Times, The Guardian and The Telegraph det­ailed the shortlisted covers, and included links to the website.

Nearly 80 per cent of the Great Cover Deb­ate coverage mentioned Magazine Week. 


About 11,000 votes were cast on the website and 35,000 digital sample versions of magazines were downloaded.

A PPA poll showed a 21 per cent awareness of Magazine Week while Borders saw a 50 per cent uplift in magazine sales

following its Magazine Week events.
Alistair Duncan, deputy production editor at Media Guardian, says: ‘We ran a photo gallery of all the covers and that did well, with people clicking through them, which was good for our site. I liked the fact the covers were diverse and there was a degree of nostalgia about them.’


Second Opinion

Sarah Locke
Chief executive, Braben

Having worked with many of the UK’s leading magazine publishers over the years, the power of the cover has always been a valuable tool in driving consumer publicity and focusing on the sales of specific issues.

The idea developed by the PPA to create Magazine Week and celebrate all the powerful things about magazines was a great platform to engage with consumers and the advertising community. With all of the media platforms competing for column inches and attention, the trick was taking a very sales-driven objective and turning it into content that would appeal and interest the consumer media.

While the idea of focusing on great magazine covers is not a new one, the way this campaign was packaged together and the work that went into bringing all the publishers, editors, magazine brands and retailers into one clear and focused initiative was excellent.

The power of the editorial judges, the iconic covers and the celebrity hooks all offered a wide range of editorial opportunities. Where the campaign could have been exploited more is in looking at and exploring behind those winning covers – the impact a famous cover has on a celebrity’s career, profiling some of the photographers behind the famous pictures and the secrets behind what makes a great cover.

There were further opportunities to extend the Great Cover debate into awards and events designed specifically for consumers to drive the passion for magazines further.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in