The Financial Times (FT) is one of the world’s leading business news and information organizations. It is recognized globally for its authority, integrity, and accuracy. Essence is proud to be the FT’s global digital media agency of record since 2014.

The recent global populist movement created an unprecedented dilemma for the FT. More broadly, as ideas from the global populist movement spread, so too did misinformation and fake news outlets pushing their own agendas. Both Brexit and the US presidential election represented landmark moments in capturing the attention of young people in politics and current affairs.

We expanded our targeting beyond our traditional FT audience, providing content to young people through platforms they spent time upon, like Facebook and Twitter. Our goal was to reaffirm the FT as a voice that the public could trust, in order to increase paid digital subscriptions.



Our plan was to be a steady voice in the cacophony. We had to make sure our young audience knew the FT was a trusted information source. We did this in three ways:

  • We developed multiple touch points across search, display and social.
  • We blended proactive and reactive approaches to the changing news cycle, preparing creative ahead of time and partnering with the FT’s editorial team to create new messaging if the conversation suddenly shifted.
  • We focused on the user journey. From the first search query to their arrival on the landing page, we gave our audience what they wanted, showing them the benefits of engaging with the FT’s reporting.


To execute our strategy, we had to be nimble. During Brexit, using demographic, interest and behavioural targeting across Facebook and Twitter, we were able to reach a global audience interested in politics and finance. As the discussion reached a crescendo in June, we tracked search results to react in real-time to what mattered most to readers. In the week surrounding the vote, we made 16 headline changes on our display creative and completed 23 refreshes on Facebook and Twitter.

In the US, our social and display ads for the presidential contest counted down to the vote, keeping the focus on Election Day. That night, as the FT shared state results online, we served in real time Facebook ads highlighting the leading candidate. Our ads featured Trump’s victory 12 minutes after it was announced by Associated Press, well ahead of most news outlets.



increase in subscriptions
versus average levels



U.S. Presidential Election
increase in subscriptions
versus average levels

These two campaigns greatly contributed to the FT’s record-high circulation of almost 850,000 across digital and print during the campaigns, with digital subscriptions accounting for more three-quarters of the total paying audience.


M&M Global Awards 2017

Shortlisted - Best Integrated Campaign

Shortlisted - Media Entertainment & Sport