The Big Issue: not what you expected.

Following the Big Issue re-launch in 2012 –when the street mag re branded itself with a strong focus on political and social journalism– they teamed up with M+C Saatchi to work on a new ad campaign to change people’s perspective of the publication. M+C Saatchi developed the idea that the magazine vendors are small-business owners in their own right; just another facet of the often-marginalised group of local business.

They met with six big issue vendors and helped bring the vendors’ thoughts to life and invited the public to see another side of the street publication. Vendors are not given the magazine; they buy them from Big Issue coordinators and resell them. They are regulated and have to manage  their own stock as there is no resale value on copies.

While I think this approach is valuable and brings some much-needed understanding of the street mag business model to the public fore, there is no denying that some Big Issue vendors do not fit that profile so well. That’s not their problem; they’re vulnerable or homeless members of society taking part in a social enterprise that was designed to help them.  I think people’s goodwill can go far when it’s encouraged in the right forum but it cannot be relied upon if nothing is given in return. Ultimately, you can only expect so much from public goodwill without providing a reasonable incentive. With that in mind, I tried another tack.

I used to buy the mag when I was younger but to be perfectly honest I didn’t find the articles particularly engaging and the content was not enough to keep me buying.  As the oft-used phrase goes: content is king.  So what is the Big Issue like following its relaunch last year? I bought a copy last week to find out and so far, so good. It’s something that I think many people might read if they knew what was behind the cover.

With this in mind, the idea behind my campaign was to highlight the quality of the magazine and to let its words speak for themselves.

It’s about changing people’s expectations and getting them to purchase the Big Issue  in its own right; with the bonus of some social goodwill, but not solely because of it.

Finally, please excuse my design skills: a. I’m obviously not a designer, b. these mock-ups were done on word. I’ll do some better ones soon!



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