Industry Voices

Gideon Spanier | Editor-in-Chief | Campaign, Haymarket Media

By Jess Browne-Swinburne

29 Jul 2020

For our final Radar interview before the August break, we spoke with Gideon Spanier, Editor-in-Chief of Campaign magazine and 1 of the 3 judges on the PPA Diversity Award judging panel. Spanier spoke to us about what he was looking for from a winning Diversity Initiative, what others in the industry can learn from the winning entry, Vogue, and what steps he is taking at Campaign to keep momentum around diversity in the industry.

*What made you want to work in the publishing industry? *

I love newspapers and magazines and grew up in a house where we had lots of publications. When I was about seven years old, I would draw and write my own front pages with a masthead, a news story and a picture. I went on to edit my university newspaper and wrote part-time for a US music magazine, The Source, which I also sold to record stores in London and earned a bit of money as a student. I love publishing’s ability to create and entertain and inform, to communicate rapidly and at scale, and to transport readers into new places and to tell great stories.

Chart your career from the start to where you are now.

I started in TV as a producer at CNN’s London bureau but I preferred words to moving pictures. I moved to the Evening Standard as a sub-editor, before joining the business desk as a reporter. Developing a specialism is a great way to stand out as a journalist and I got shortlisted a number of times as media commentator of the year. It was a tough time as publishers merged but also an opportunity as I got to write for new stablemates The Independent and i. I had an enjoyable spell on The Times, before the job of head of media came up at Campaign in 2015. Joining a B2B title for the advertising industry has been amazing. I didn’t realise how much people and companies would help journalists to understand how their businesses tick and I have loved the chance to create new breakfast events for Campaign in Manchester and New York and expand our brand. I became UK Editor-in-chief in March – just days before we all began working from home.

*What were you looking for as a judge on the Diversity PPA Award panel? *

I was looking for brands and editors that were challenging themselves and their companies to change the way they do business and improve diversity – from recruitment of staff to representation in the pages of their magazines. The judging took place before the killing of George Floyd at the end of May and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement globally but this new award already felt timely and important because publishing, like most areas of media, lacks diversity. I learnt a lot from the entries and felt inspired by how even relatively small steps could make a big impact – like seeking out young people from diverse backgrounds for short-term placements that led to permanent roles.

*Can you highlight the key reasons you decided on Vogue’s Diversity Campaign as the winner? *

Vogue, under the leadership of Edward Enninful, the UK editor-in-chief, has committed to being diverse and inclusive all year round – not just for one issue or on an occasional basis – and that has permeated the magazine from the choice of cover stars to the subject of the features. Getting Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, to guest-edit the “Forces for Change” issue in September 2019 was a coup for the brand and pushed diversity to the top of the fashion industry’s agenda.

*What can the industry learn from initiatives like Vogue’s winning campaign? *

Change needs to happen at every level of a company to improve diversity but leadership matters hugely. The fact that Vogue’s two top executives, Enninful, and Vanessa Kingori, the publisher, are black leaders has had a decisive impact since they took charge. Diverse teams lead to diverse thinking. Kingori appeared on the cover of Campaign in February and talked about challenging the “perception that doors aren’t open” to people from diverse backgrounds in large parts of the media. “Visibility” is key, as she puts it, and seeing more people from diverse backgrounds succeed will attract more diverse talent to our industry. There is a good line that Alex Mahon, the Channel 4 chief executive, uses: “The answer is never that the talent isn’t there. It’s you haven’t made the criteria right, you haven’t looked hard enough or you’re not prepared to take the risk.”

*Since you became Editor-in-Chief of Campaign this year, what steps have you taken to ensure diversity within your magazine brand and as the voice of the advertising industry? *

In April, we published our annual School Reports, which analyse the performance of 102 agencies in the UK, and found that representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic staff was static and, at the highest levels, had gone slightly backwards. We highlighted the agencies that were doing the best and warned we might single out the worst in future. Advertising plays a big role in shaping perceptions and, following the rise of Black Lives Matter, Campaign ran a cover story in June about how “this must be a turning-point” for challenging racial inequality in adland. We have run some strong opinion pieces on BLM from newer and younger voices including Campaign’s Fayola Douglas and MediaCom’s Vivienne Dovi. Our job is to hold the ad industry to account and we plan to collect more industry data. Campaign, and its owner Haymarket, also need to ensure we are making the same progress as we demand of others. I am part of a staff group, Origin, which is looking at improving diversity and inclusion, and there is an opportunity for Haymarket and other PPA members to learn from each other. Diversity is not a problem to fix, it’s the solution that will better reflect “the fruit salad that is modern Britain”, as Karen Blackett, WPP’s UK country manager, likes to say.

What’s on your radar?

Serving our readers at a time of immense economic difficulty and structural change; inspiring and motivating our editorial team after four months and counting of working from home; the short-term financial pressures on our business and on the ad industry and the impact on mental health. Kindness and collaboration are important and will help us all sleep better.

What magazine would you stockpile?

Campaign, Private Eye and The New Yorker. I have also kept all of my old copies of The Source and The Face.