Navigating the Crisis | Jacqueline Euwe, Chief Luxury Officer, Hearst
With the world in lockdown, many of us are reaching for the reassuring familiarity of a glossy magazine to while away a few (very pleasant) hours. To discuss how COVID-19 has impacted on the world of publishing – and luxury publishing in particular – we hand over to Hearst’s Chief Luxury Officer, Jacquie Euwe.
Jacquie Euwe is the Chief Luxury Officer at Hearst and oversees the luxury portfolio of one of the world’s largest publishers of magazine media, including Harper’s Bazaar, ELLE, Esquire, ELLE Decoration and Town & Country.
What changes if any, have you seen across digital traffic to your sites?
We know our fashion and luxury content attracts high levels of engagement, but at the start of the crisis, when everyone was adjusting to the prospect of a life temporarily in lockdown, luxury wasn’t a priority for consumers.
Therefore, our digital teams have been reviewing their content strategy on a daily basis. As a result, Bazaar introduced a new At Home section and the initiative #creativityincrisis, where Bazaar reached out to its network of great artists, designers and craftspeople to support their work and inspire others to harness the power of the imagination. In recent weeks, Bazaar has experienced its fastest ever growth in social-media followers (up 51% YoY on Instagram and up 350% YoY on YouTube), as well as record-breaking website traffic (up 88% YoY in April).
ELLE also shifted focus on providing positive inspiration for their readers with an ELLE spin, whether that is sharing people’s silver linings despite the current situation, or honing in on wellness content and self-care at a time when we need it most. ELLE also wanted to celebrate ‘the other frontline’ – the supermarket workers, delivery drivers, pharmacists, teachers and public-transport workers who are working tirelessly to keep the country ticking along and are right behind our NHS workers in delivering vital and essential services. All shot through Zoom, ELLE created a very special digital issue entitled The Other Front Line and put these women on the cover as nominated by the public as local heroes.
We have recently also seen huge traffic results with Esquire’s digital platform. In April, we had our best performing month ever with unique users up 120% YOY and 34% MOM, as readers look for the expertise, advice and entertainment that Esquire embodies. Health- and news-related content is driving much of that, but we have seen interest in other core areas too, specifically guides to fitness, workouts, style, entertainment and culture are, as you’d expect, flying.
Esquire has also been investing in longform reporting on the coronavirus crisis, including this key piece – Coronavirus Timeline: How The World Will Change Over The Next 18 Months – to ensure readers are aware of what’s happening, delivered by a brand they can trust to cut through the noise.
How are you currently working with advertisers?
Unsurprisingly, this has been an incredibly tough time for our advertisers. There is a great deal of uncertainty about the future, and the majority are very conscious of the sensitivities of promoting their offering at this time. We have been mindful in our approach to clients, and our primary objective during this challenging period is to offer clients solutions and support to help them weather the storm.
Have you offered any solutions over and above what you normally do?
Being able to better serve our clients is always at front of our thinking. To ensure we can continue to produce branded content of the highest quality, a creator network has been established.
This network is made up of skilled practitioners – including photographers, videographers, illustrators and animators – who work with our brands regularly. They have premium studio set-ups at home that allow them to create content to our high standards. This enables our advertisers to have access to editorial and/or internal talent, even in these very unusual and challenging times. We are also offering our advertisers and partners a premium live-video opportunity. It brings together multiple talent via a single live-streaming feed, which is proving to be excellent for hosting ‘In conversation with…’ pieces, or virtual get-togethers such as book clubs. We expect we will inevitably see a rise in demand while we are unable to execute traditional events for our clients.
How are you navigating shoots across the portfolio?
In these unprecedented times, we need to ensure the safety of our creative contributors. Our brands are having to improvise and adapt to a very new and remote way of working in order to create fashion content.
As we likely won’t be able to shoot August collections for ELLE, the team is instead going to improvise, responding creatively to the challenge of showing readers the new season. ELLE will use catwalk imagery, collage and illustration, along with contributions from designers.
Bazaar completed its last shoot for the July issue on the Monday before the lockdown was announced. Since then, the only two shoots the team has organised have involved private households. In both cases, these were carried out by a photographer who was married to the subject, so the shoots took place on their own properties, with no stylist, hairdresser or make-up artist present. Where art direction has been necessary, this was carried out via video calls over Zoom or WhatsApp.
For the summer issue of Town & Country, all shoots had been completed prior to lockdown, with the exception of photographing jewellery. We therefore took a creative approach to the execution of this story, dropping the planned shoot in favour of producing a beautiful collage-style story inspired by Alice in Wonderland, using high-res product imagery and evocative black-and-white illustrations.
Hong Kong press offices have opened up again and there is sample movement beginning, while Asian titles have started shooting again. It is also not compulsory for our brands to shoot in the UK, should the lockdown be safely lifted elsewhere while ours remains.
What does British luxury mean to you?
British luxury means exceptional service, creativity and craftsmanship, as well as a unique blend of innovation and tradition.
What do you see as the future of luxury?
After the pandemic, I believe that the consumer will be searching for meaning in their investment purchases. So, for luxury brands, storytelling around purpose and values, heritage and authenticity will be the key to remaining relevant for the new generation of luxury consumers.
What inspires you?
Creativity and resilience in the face of adversity, which I am seeing demonstrated daily by the brilliant teams I work with.
What was your big break?
Self-belief and good fortune in landing my dream job at Harpers & Queen when I was in my twenties working for the editor Fiona Macpherson, which has led to so many extraordinary and exciting opportunities at Hearst.
What piece of advice would you give to someone entering the luxury industry now?
I still know so many people that I met during my first years in the job; we have all risen up the ranks together in our respective industries. So I’d say the most crucial advice is to nurture your relationships.
In a parallel life, what would you be doing?
I would be a diving instructor, somewhere warm and sunny like the Maldives, enjoying my days submerged in a magical world of beauty, serenity and wonder.
What’s your favourite luxury?
My favourite luxuries are simple: a chilled glass of champagne, a gorgeous NPeal cashmere wrap, a beautiful Montblanc ink pen and a box of macaroons from Fortnum & Mason.