The more they did with less
Here’s the easy way to make great custom publications and other media: Find the best writers, the best photographers and the best designers, pay them what they ask and watch them do their magic.
Of course, for creators of custom publications it’s rarely that simple—and this year it wasn’t anywhere near. The economy declined so rapidly last fall that it made us forget it had been declining steadily for a year before that.
What didn’t decline, miraculously enough, was the level of excellence exhibited by the grand winners of the 2009 Magnum Opus Awards, sponsored by ContentWise and managed in conjunction with the Missouri School of Journalism. From stunning arboricultural training CDs to an in-flight magazine so good you could eat, from a hair-raising safety video to a brilliantly conceived toolkit for salespeople, this year’s Grand Winners more than measure up to communication media made in more prosperous times.
This year the judges considered 589 entries from 145 companies across what is an ever-diversifying field of categories—217 this year, up from 195 in 2008.
Entrants were eligible to win Gold, Silver, Bronze, or Honorable Mention awards for demonstrating specific expertise (such as Best Feature Article, Best Use of Illustration, and Best Advertorial Design) or overall excellence and strategy (such as Best Overall Editorial, Most Improved Design, Best All-Around Nonprofit Publication, and Best Executive Blog).
In addition to these specific categories, Grand Awards were pos¬sible in 19 categories of print and Web-based publications and video and social media. Congratulations to the seven that we’re delighted to present on the following pages.
Their outstanding producers created great publications, videos, and other media during tough times— and helped their clients overcome.
Best Print Magazine— External Audience
Spafax Canada Inc
Year after year, enRoute continues to wow Magnum Opus judges.
“I would be pleasantly surprised to pull this out of my seat back and spend an hour with it,” said one judge of this Air Canada in-flight magazine. Another described it as “contemporary, smart, and approachable.” (Or, as a reader put it in a letter to the editor, “Your magazine rocks! … Whenever I fly with Air Canada, I don’t bother to bring a magazine on board because I look forward to reading enRoute.”)
What makes enRoute so special?
Let us count the ways: Editors integrate a wide range of subject mat¬ter into something that feels cohesive and polished. Photographers make subjects pop off the page. And design¬ers work creatively in each spread to integrate two languages—French and English—in a format that’s so graphically and typographically cohesive that you hardly even notice the other language.
Connect Sprint to Vertical Markets Toolkit
The innovative design of this kit for Sprint employees who sell to mid-sized companies incorporates a pop-up sales training DVD and an easy-to-follow guide to the purpose of the DVD and its contents. The imagery of the print materials—visually pleasing columns of open circles revealing Chicago’s John Hancock Tower beneath— reinforces the concept of selling to vertical markets.
The toolkit’s copy is just as bold as the design, opening with a letter from senior VP Jaime Jones congratulating vertical sales associates on their new assignment, whom he says have been chosen because of their “expertise and ‘take no prisoners’ attitude.” And the copy also nods to the “vertical” concept, using words such as “ascend” and “elevate.”
Saudi Aramco World
“This site really works the way a Web pub should,” said one judge.
How is that?
It’s easy and intuitive to navigate, and reflects a smart use of resources, pulling you in and making you stay with layers of information.
Aside from the stunningly strong design, we liked the use of photography and all the extras in the graphics, which showed how a Web platform can add value that print has trouble matching.
Most impressive is the way the site uses opening frames for each feature article to either draw the reader in or push the reader along to the next article. For instance, the reader who doesn’t want to tackle the lead article, East Meets West in Venice—you’re either interested in European cultural influences or you aren’t—could well be enticed by “New Nomads of the High Atlas,” about how visiting Western rock climbers are making relationships with Moroccan villagers, “much as villagers and nomads have done for generations.”
Your Safety On the Line
This powerfully put-together video about the dangers of downed power lines wakes viewers up to dangers they didn’t know about. (For instance, did you know that much more power runs through these lines than it used to? It does. Did you think the black coating on power wires was designed to insu¬late you from shock? It isn’t; it’s just to keep water off the wires.)
Intended for firefighters, police officers, and other emergency responders but useful for civilians too, it demonstrates how techniques that emergency services people used to be able to employ—like kicking aside a wire that is down— won’t work anymore.
The video leaves little to the imagination, but the disturb¬ing images and harrowing anecdotes don’t come off as gratuitous because they’re backed up with solid tips in this well-paced video.
“With compelling visual imagery,” says the DVD jacket, “‘Your Safety On the Line’ serves as a wake-up call for some, and a reminder to others of the importance of thinking before acting.” It does the job well.
Introduction to Arboriculture Training Series
International Society of Arboriculture
The developers of this 10-CD training set created a sophisticated, graphically pleasing, and well-organized set of primers that are self-paced and interactive, allowing students to skim or delve as their skills and interests require.
As practical for would-be professionals as it is entertaining for eager amateurs, the CD set includes 750 quiz questions that help prepare users for the Inter-national Society of Arboriculture exam, and certified arborists can get continuing education credits, too.
Designed “for adult learners who cannot attend formal classes and nontradi¬tional learners who respond best to visual, auditory, and hands-on teaching methods,” the training CDs use audio and visual means to “simulate job tasks and promote learning transfer.”
An aspiring arborist will be both educated and inspired by this fine training product.
Wyeth Earth Day 2008 Videos
Instead of taking the usual defen¬sive corporate stance—we’re doing some stuff to help the environ¬ment, honest we are!—pharmaceu¬tical giant Wyeth created a set of videos around Earth Day 2008 challenging employees to keep up: “The world is changing. Wyeth is making a difference. Are you?”
In a series of 30-second videos, one for each day of the week around Earth Day, Wyeth showed its employees across 15 sites worldwide how the company is responding to environmental challenges.
Shown on plasma screens that are part of the Wyeth Information Network, the videos followed a tight formula that targeted a single issue each day (e.g., water conser¬vation), showed how Wyeth was making a difference in that area, and challenged its employees to do the same.
The videos are boldly expressed and pithy—two requirements for grabbing the attention of employees, or anyone else, in the YouTube age.
Integration of Social Media
C-Span Presidential Debate Hubs
Meredith Integrated Marketing
Leading social media thinkers keep telling us that communicators’ jobs will consist less of publishing information and more of facilitat¬ing conversation.
Those wondering what that process might look like could do lots worse than to study the four websites of C-Span’s Debate Hub— one for each of the four U.S. presidential and vice-presidential debates in the fall of 2008.
The debate hubs hosted debate-related dialogue to the tune of 300 blog posts, 200 embedded videos, a Twitter account that garnered 3,700 followers, and a total of 140,000 unique monthly visitors.
The sites achieved their goal of making a well-respected media brand more exciting and relevant by appealing to three distinct audiences—political junkies and journalists, already-engaged C-span viewers, and political newcomers.
And studying them can help custom publishers achieve their goal of transforming themselves from information-pushers to hosts of conversations.