_rock & roam: a travel magazine for Virgin Holidays

A customer magazine shortlisted for an industry award within its first year
(& winner in its second year)

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Brief/ The aim was to create a publication that would inspire Virgin Holidays' customers with ideas for new holidays they could take. Given that Virgin is traditionally perceived as a Florida-bound carrier, we wanted to draw attention to the fact that Virgin also serves many destinations outside the US. Crucial to the proposition was that it should involve customers and create a "clubby" feel that would encourage brand loyalty.

The magazine structure is a front end of small bitty elements, with a couple of one-page, full-bleed images. This gives the magazine pace, it draws readers in quickly and entices them with articles that require little committment. Articles have a newsy-feel to them but we also run top-10 lists and a section called 'Best-Kept Secret'. Next, comes the feature section. Here, the aim is to add articles with more weight and presence. This is also the point where we use more full-bleed imagery. Features are inevitably designed to promote different aspects of Virgin Holidays' marketing startegy, depending on the time of year of publication. The final section is a destination reviews section with one page each given over to key resorts. These reviews include family information, climate and travel details. The magazine closes with 'Once in a lifetime' - a look at a very special holiday option.

"Publication to have an elegant, coherent structure designed to guide the reader through a complete experience. It should be full of stunning photography to inspire readers but also lots of entry points. The front section should be full of short, bitty elements, features should comprise boxouts and graphical devices to add interest. The magazine should feel lively, exciting, dynamic and it shouldn’t be afraid to break a few rules. There should be calls to action at the end of every feature (price, journey times, etc) – every article in the magazine should excite readers about Virgin Holidays' destinations."

-from launch proposal, 2007

It was important to include lots of full-bleed photography, not only to act as stopping points within the magazine, but also to give something that readers could drool over. I was very keen that the magazine's primary job should be to inspire. There were calls-to-action that led readers to the next stage (ie, booking) but giving them ideas for places to go was our most important job. This gave rise to the centre spread of the magazine. Initially called 'Things to see before you die', the centre spread offered a stunning full-bleed image that would make a reader really want to get on the next plane. The section still exists today, although it's been renamed as Virgin were worried about the connotations with death.

To involve readers, a number of ideas were implemented. Firstly, I started a regular mailshot to selected members of Virgin Holidays' email database, enabling me to build contact with customers. I quickly responded to those that wrote back and built up a loyal following of potential readers who I could use to sound out ideas for features and to provide supporting evidence for any ideas I wanted to push to Virgin. Various sections were included in the magazine that also encouraged reader input - a hugely popular reader photos page, reader quotes dotted through news (designed to inspire other customers with places they could visit) and a two-page feature that followed a reader on a very special holiday. Readers quotes are also used liberally throughout features to add a further sense of community.

"Positioned as an entertainment travel magazine promoting Virgin destinations. Exciting ideas, a cheeky sense of fun or a warm helping hand. Off-the-wall but not off-the-wall just for the sake of it. Includes devices to cross-sell and upsell. Full of energy, excitement, breathless enthusiasm. Down-to-earth tone of voice, everyday language, tons of character. Sense of humour. Talks equally to men and women."

-from launch proposal, 2007

Rock & Roam was shortlisted for an industry APA Award in November 2008 - a great achievement for a magazine that's so young. It then went on to win the award a year later, in November 2009, at the APA's International Customer Publishing Awards. At the ceremony the judges commented: "This is a perfect case of small spend, big revenue. The magazine is bang on brand, with a real fresh feel to it. It's making me want to go on holiday just looking at it".

But perhaps the best achievement has been the effect that Rock & Roam's presence has had on rebookings - Virgin Holidays reports stronger bookings on all the destinations we cover and there are hopes that we will increase the frequency of the publication in the future.