News & Views

A warm welcome to the new Contagious

by Paul Kemp-Robertson

A message from co-founder, Paul Kemp-Robertson

Perhaps by luck as well as judgement Contagious magazine was founded at just the right time to document the most disruptive period in our industry since the invention of the television. The idea was incubated, as many often are, in a pub. This one was The Admiral Codrington in Chelsea, London. I had a comfy job and a pension plan at a big global agency, but I confessed to my friend and former boss, Gee Thomson, that I was worried I might be heading for the job centre if I didn’t get to grips with all the changes and disruptions occurring around us. I had the sense that the audience was running ahead of the advertiser -  the communities they were creating, the content they were sharing, the emerging technology they were mucking about with and the nascent social media channels they were fostering.

What I needed was an early warning system; a handy instruction manual for the immediate future. Bingo! Gee and I shook hands and Contagious was born. I wish I’d kept the beermat upon which we sketched the early business plan. A few days later we had an espresso with media entrepreneur, John Gordon, who promised to fund us if we worked for free for a year.

Since starting the company in 2004 we’ve witnessed the transition from mass to fragmented media, and from brand-led broadcasting to consumer-led conversation. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, the iPhone, Android, Fuelband and 3D printers were all glimmers in scruffy people’s eyes when our first issue was published. A Titanium Lion was something you would have to ask for in a Dubai jewellery emporium.

Over these last nine years I’ve been indescribably proud of how we’ve grown and diversified as a company and eternally thankful that our audience has kept pushing us to do even more. In 2007, a client called Tom convinced us to launch FEED, a digital service that brought snapshots of Contagious thinking every week to those of you who couldn’t wait for the quarterly magazine to come out. In 2010 we set up a small, dedicated consultancy division called Insider, because we knew that the insights we were generating and the dots we were joining up were more than a notch above conventional journalism. Early clients like Nike, Google, Louis Vuitton and the NSPCC were brave enough to agree. This year, our Insider division helped Heineken and Tribal DDB to create the award-winning Ignite bottle and we’re into our second year as official partners for Mondelez International’s acclaimed innovation incubator, Project Fly. In 2012 we created our own annual conference – Most Contagious  to celebrate the very best ideas, entrepreneurs and technologies in our industry.

So, from three people in the corner of someone else’s office on Carnaby Street, we’ve now grown to a team of thirty in our current Farringdon base. And – after persuading the wonderful Nick Parish to leave his secure job at Advertising Age  we have planted the Contagious flag in New York (seven people and a dog) and Singapore (Roger at his kitchen table). In 2014, we’re going to have a foothold in Brazil in time for the World Cup.

Throughout all these changes, we’ve listened to our readers, our clients and our delegates in a bid to constantly develop our services. This month we’re announcing another leap for the company. Firstly, FEED has been completely overhauled into a new intelligence platform we’ve called I/O (Input/Output) which introduces fantastic new features that allow content to be customised and shared better and faster than ever before, all packaged up in a smart new interface we think you’ll love playing with.

Our consultancy service is evolving with new hires from places like PepsiCo, WPP and Forbes  recruited to augment our current skillset and a new role  director of content & strategy - established to provide leadership for our growing number of clients. Those of you who are subscribers to the magazine will have already seen some of the changes we’ve made to its content and design – deeper analysis, trend overviews and exclusive video interviews with the strategists behind the world’s most innovative work. Look out for lots more to come next year.

Finally and perhaps most significantly, you’ll notice that we are now simply contagious.com rather than contagiousmagazine.com. It’s a brilliant feeling to own the word printed on our business cards. The change reflects the company we have become, with our homepage reflecting the variety of services and solutions we provide for our clients today. If you're looking for your usual fix of the world’s most contagious brand ideas don't worry, you’ll still find them in our News & Views section, so please take a look.

I know that we can only improve by continuing to listen, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on our new look and our unique perspective - please email me at paul@contagious.com. As we get ready to celebrate our first decade, we hope the changes you see today will help prepare us for the next one. We look forward to you sharing the ride with us.

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