VIVA Editor Amanda Linnell on the success of VIVA magazine

The launch of VIVA Vol. One was met with an incredible response. With Vol. Two out now, StopPress chatted to VIVA Editor Amanda Linnell about the success of the magazine so far, what works well for advertisers, and the tribulations of producing the first volume under lockdown. 

Can you tell us about the success of the mag so far? 

We launched at a time when everyone said the industry was over. The incredible response since, just goes to show people still love a good magazine! We were extremely well supported by advertisers in our first issue — it was a leap of faith for them but there was also a sense of trust, knowing Viva’s long-standing reputation for being at the forefront of the cultural conversation.

These brands were brave and shared our vision to do something different. It’s their support that enabled us to say ‘yes — this is something we can do again’ and secure the future of Viva Magazine as a quarterly.

Viva Magazine Volume One, I believe, truly captured the societal shifts of 2020 and acts as a record of time and mood. It was the number one selling monthly/quarterly magazine at launch. Our success at retail was something we couldn’t predict, so to have so many readers choose to spend $9.90 on the magazine in a year where the pandemic has cut so deep into New Zealand was really meaningful. There were many reports of stores having to re-order. 

We attracted a whole raft of new readers to the Viva family, above and beyond those who are already engaged with our weekly magazine and our website. 

At the heart of Volume Two is the freedom of summer and the meaning of coming home — two things that are very poignant right now. We worked closely with our cover star Lili Sumner, an internationally recognised model and filmmaker who had just returned from New York. Lili took us to her home in Hawke’s Bay and shared her favourite childhood haunts, she wrote a beautiful essay about reluctantly leaving her life abroad behind, and we tied the whole project together by having Lili create a short film about the shoot which is now on Viva.co.nz.

What did the multi-platform promotional campaign involve?

We are fortunate to have the might of the NZME portfolio to support us. We were able to run a schedule of print, digital and radio creative to announce and launch on sale, which has worked extraordinarily well for us. 

For Volume Two the campaign involved sampling to key businesses nationwide, sending out influencer packs to celebrate summer with Round Theory wine and the magazine, and a marketing campaign including nationwide print and radio across the NZME network and a targeted digital campaign. 

What were the tribulations of producing the first volume under lockdown?

When lockdown two was announced we had two big shoots to complete – including our cover – so it was all go.

We had to completely rethink how we were going to execute them. Fashion editor and creative director Dan Ahwa worked with photographer Hōhua Ropate Kurene and led a cast of models, including cover model Manahou Mackay, through the suburban gardens of Auckland for an evocative shoot that literally captured fashion in our own backyard. 

Meanwhile, deputy editor Johanna Thornton, recipe editor Angela Casley and photographer Babiche Martens created and shot a seafood feast in Angela’s kitchen, beginning the day at 6am to get it done before lockdown at 12pm. 

These are innovative people who all thought outside the square to get the job done. When you’re conceptualising and putting a brand new magazine together remotely, it is pretty intense, so for the last two weeks of deadline, we created our own bubble so we would work together.  The advantage was the team was able to really focus, with no distractions. It was a very special time, and something we’ll never forget.

What sort of feedback have you had from readers, advertisers and commercial partners?

We ran a reader survey with the first issue to see what our audience thought of the magazine, and reviewing the feedback there were actual tears of joy from the team. There was such an outpouring of positivity, love and support for this magazine. Overwhelmingly, our readers let us know that we had something special — that it was modern, fresh, thoughtful and beautiful, which is exactly what we’d sought to capture.

Commercially, the feedback from our partners has been positive and it was hugely gratifying to see such keen interest and investment in our second issue. They’ve noted the effort we’ve made to integrate their advertising into the title with thoughtful positioning that makes their message feel a part of the magazine offering.

Our retail partners delivered too, with stores selling out and re-ordering right through the on-sale period, from Northland to the deep South. Seeing those South Island sales numbers come through was a particularly good result for us given that Viva’s weekly format is bundled with the NZ Herald and not readily available outside Herald markets. The striking cover really stood out on the newsstand and the fact that the content was such a deep celebration of Aotearoa – the only place we could be – really resonated.

VIVA Volume Two cover

With Viva Volume Two now out, what can we expect from Viva Volume Three?

Volume Three is all about looking forward, exploring what and who is making this world a better place to live in from a creative point of view, and shaking off the introspection of 2020! Viva Magazine 2021 is continuing to build on our reputation. We confidentially launched with an intelligent and forward thinking cover star for Volume One – Manahou Mackay. We’ve not conformed to air-brushed, heavily made-up models, we’ve printed essays and stories that challenge the status quo and provoke thought, given a platform to talented artists, poets, writers, and photographers, and been brave enough to push the boundaries of what people expect of a fashion and lifestyle magazine.  

With a resurgence of new magazines and re-launched magazine titles in New Zealand, how does Viva strive to stand out from the rest? 

“I love the bold colours, I love the diversity in your models, I loved the fashion, I loved the quality of journalism, I love the foodie articles, I loved the layout and photography. There is something quite unique and special about this magazine that sets it apart from other magazines I choose to read.” — Viva Magazine reader.

This is typical of the kind of response we’ve been getting. We really set out to do something different. We thought why not push the boundaries, with both the content and the design, and see what happens? And people loved it! 

The reality is Viva has been getting it right for a long time with our weekly magazine and always stood out from its competitors because of its unique position in the market. So it was a natural step into regular gloss publication, and our readers have confirmed that we’re really doing something special with Viva Magazine.

We’re reflecting New Zealand back to itself, with diverse models and fashion choices, providing thought-provoking editorial — across fashion, beauty, design, culture, music, food and travel — that makes people see and think of the world differently, exposing them to not only the new and beautiful but the new and important.

What do you think works well for advertisers?

Our editorial integrity is paramount and with this comes reader trust and loyalty. This is the audience and environment that savvy brands today are wanting to tap into.

Now more than ever consumers are looking for authenticity, and if there is any whiff of editorial being bought – they can see through it. We have always worked closely with clients to create quality advertisements and sponsored content, to ensure it contributes to the reader experience.

Our commercial editor, journalist Emma Gleason, sits next to me and works closely with the editorial team to maximise opportunities across all our platforms and develop strong angles of engagement. We know that readers spend an immensely long time with the magazine (nearly half spent over an hour reading the first issue, with one-in-five saying they will keep it forever). Plus, we are able to keep the conversation alive for partners above and beyond the magazine; we can expand their stories into the weekly magazine, through our website, EDMs and social. This 360-degree offering ensures a highly engaged audience.  

Any final thoughts?

I am super proud of the people behind this magazine. It has been a challenging year for our industry, but a shared vision to grow Viva with a brand new nationwide print product has come out of a shared passion, with everyone being incredibly resourceful and not shying away from hard work. If you do what we do, you have to thrive on change, evolve and continue to innovate. This is what keeps life interesting. Bring on 2021!

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