Last month’s PPA Customer Direct conference was, as with the 2015 event, the launchpad for a major report on the future of subscriptions in consumer and B2B publishing.

Whereas the 2015 report looked at consumer attitudes to subscriptions, this year’s – once again commissioned by the PPA and compiled by Wessenden Marketing – focuses on sentiments and analysis from inside the industry.

READ MORE: PPA Report 2015: 5 Subscription Marketing Take-Outs

With 43% of publishers (including our clients, of course) outsourcing some form of creative according to the report, we’ve pulled out some of the key findings that have an influence on creative decision-making…

“Acquisition activity still dominates publisher subscription marketing [but] costs are rising, due in part to the longer and more complex acquisition journey”

The big challenge when it comes to acquisition is making sure that marketing teams not only understand the multiple touchpoints within an ever-convoluted acquisition journey, but tailor their message and activity to maximise impact at each one.

We have seen a few publishers addressing this by experimenting with new creative concepts. But we still think there are huge opportunities being missed when it comes to certain channels – particularly social media. Be bolder, that’s our message. The customer experience is changing, so your thinking must too.

“Renewal rates are rising strongly”

Part of the credit for improving renewal rates goes to the performance of email which, notes the report, has overtaken print letters in terms of retention-based usage.


From a creative point of view, this reinforces the essential nature of intelligently-designed, robustly tested and fully mobile-responsive email campaigns. Platforms and devices are constantly evolving, so it pays to keep on top of the most effective solutions.

“For Consumer companies, it is promotions which form the leading application of digital”

One of the most interesting sections of the report is entitled The Digital Dimension. It notes that a few years ago, ‘digital’ meant simply content delivery. Now it is a term that pervades every department of every publisher.

We are certainly receiving an increasing number of briefs from digital marketing teams, in addition to long-standing direct marketing clients. Display ads, banners, Facebook ads, GIFs and, following on from above, lots of email campaigns. We fully expect this trend to continue.


“Only 52% of respondents feel that their company is giving data protection and privacy ‘a considerable amount of focus.’”

This isn’t strictly a creative challenge, but it is one that will affect all of our clients in the long run. During the PPA Conference, we were chatting to fellow sponsors Merit Group about data compliance. They casually brought up the imminent GDPR legislation, which we didn’t really know too much about.

Now we do, and it really is something to get to grips with. If this post is about implications for creative campaigns – and email is as important a key channel for acquisition and (particularly) retention as the report outlines – then this point is arguably the one with the biggest potential consequences for marketeers.

“Several common [opportunities] run through both B2B and Consumer, the key one being the drive to upsell existing subscribers into a bigger, deeper relationship”

This is the key take-out from the section of the report entitled Opportunities. At the heart of the issue is better use of data and technology to increase personalisation and automation.

One implication here in terms of creative is that we creep towards an age where copy, tone of voice and design also becomes automated. Hopefully we’re just being a little paranoid here! An experienced human eye for design and copywriting can’t be underestimated.

Alternatively, us and the machines will just have to find a way of working together.

Subscription Futures 2016 is available to delegates of the PPA Customer Direct Conference and to all PPA members on request. More information can be found here.