In My Opinion: Neil Braidwood: PPA reinvents itself

THE annual conference of the Professional Publishers Association is always a major date in the magazines calendar, but this year’s event promised more – from the venue in an industrial basement in Holborn, London, to the name itself – RE_INVENTED//

I was keen to see what all the fuss was about, and with some top names lined up – including singer, Jamie Cullum, who has launched a new magazine – I booked my place.

Staggering off the sleeper at Euston, yesterday, I wandered down to Holborn, where the PPA had constructed a pop-up magazine shop as part of the entrance to the conference. Annoyingly, I must have missed the memo that invited PPA members to submit their publications for display on the shelves – so consequently, Scottish magazines were noticeably absent.

It was only 8.45am but there was a real energy about the place already, and as I descended the stairs into the jaw-dropping space below, I was starting to get a good feeling about the day.

There were three zones – The Big Picture (hosted by PPA CEO, Barry McIlheney), The Bottom Line, and The Buzz.

Each offered discussions, talks and presentations covering different subjects, from making money to new technology.

Sessions overlapped, but due to the open plan nature of the space, delegates were encouraged to drop in and out as they chose, so you could get the most out of the day. This led to a fairly fluid event, and I found myself in back-to-back sessions writing copious notes.

Here’s ten things I took from the conference:

1. Ex-NME journalist, Tony Parson’s favourite magazine is called Your Dog;

2. The print category at the Cannes Lions Creative Awards is down by 12 per cent;

3. If your video content is good, it doesn’t matter how long it is, people will watch it;

4. Forever Sports is a new print launch this month by Square Up Media;

5. Apparently only 15 per cent of consumers actually believe advertising;

6. Emap’s new office has a ‘trading floor’ for the ad sales team. The 120-strong staff bring in £200k per day;

7. Mark Ellen once hired a journalist on Smash Hits because he had a crazy hairstyle;

8. PPA is to hire a marketing agency to promote magazines;

9. Jamie Cullum’s new magazine is called 88 because that is the number of keys on a piano; and

10. Print is still a viable option for advertisers as a magazine has a deeper engagement with its readers.

There was a beautiful printed programme of the day (as you would expect), to keep track of things, or you could download an app where you could create your own agenda, see biographies of speakers, and even contact delegates or tweet from within the app.

There was a Twitter leaderboard, with prizes on offer for the most Tweets of the day – at one point the hashtag #ppareinvented was even trending.

I met a lot of new people, put faces to names I knew, and generally absorbed as much as I could from what was a busy, information-rich day.

The evening ended with a couple of songs from Jamie Cullum, a few drinks and an impromptu ‘flashmob’ style dance routine, which caused great amusement.

Neil Braidwood is director of CMYK Design and vice-chair of PPA Scotland.