Social Responsibility Report for Unilever: Making iPad Apps Outside Traditional Publishing

Our heritage is certainly magazines, and we remain committed to that business. However, we are also seeing tremendous interest in making iPad apps with our platform outside traditional publishing. Examples range from enterprises creating apps for internal information distribution, such as sales materials, to companies rethinking their marketing collateral for the touchscreen, to entertainment companies looking to expand their content channels.

In the following interview, Alex Bardis from Sprint Advertising talks about how they helped their client Unilever to develop and launch an iPad edition of Unilever’s Social Responsibility Report.

Please give a short introduction to the team responsible for the app.
The project was led by Mina Valavani, the corporate social responsibility and media relations manager at Unilever Greece. The design team was Nicholas Philippides and Savvas Kontos, creative directors at Sprint Advertising. The development and production team was Alex Bardis, head of creative, and John Giannakopoulos, head of interactive at Rex Bites Digital Publishing. The video was shot and directed by Sergio Kotsovoulos.

What were your goals when creating this app? Who was the audience?
In November 2010, Unilever established the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, committing to a ten-year journey toward sustainable growth. What makes this plan unique is that it applies right across the value chain. This app reports the solid progress on two of the company’s three big goals: (1) helping more than a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being and (2) sourcing 100 percent of agricultural raw materials sustainably by 2020. Unilever is taking responsibility not just for its own direct operations but also for its suppliers and distributors and for how consumers use its brands. Underpinning the plan are more than fifty targets, and in 2012, Unilever continued to make good progress in delivering on the plan’s commitments.

Please give us some background to the app—is it an evolution from print to iPad?
There was the original print version, which we dynamically transformed into an iPad and Android app, and we also created a browser-based version. We’re talking 100 percent digital publishing strategy here, and we take pride and pleasure in the fact that we produced all content in-house.

Why was the creation of this specific app considered a worthwhile undertaking? Why did you choose to create it for the tablet, and how important is that in relation to its audience?
In addition to the content, Unilever wanted to promote its digital principles: be human, be real, be connected, and don’t forget to have fun! Which is why we couldn’t think of a more appropriate medium than the tablet. It’s no secret that tablets are set to take over the computer world, so it wasn’t a hard decision after all! More important was the fact that the app idea was entirely conceived by the Greek subsidiary of Unilever in Athens. It’s not often that you get a chance to develop something original for such a consumer giant when you’re an independent—and certainly not UK- or US-based—agency.

Furthermore, in relation to its audience, it was important that the app carry the clear and consistent voice of Unilever: human, open, connected, entrepreneurial, optimistic, fun, authentic, collaborative, fresh, serious, but never heavy-handed.

Why did you select mag+?
One of our many challenges was to come up with an original and creative way of bringing the Unilever visual elements to life. We soon realized that the infinite canvas and interactive features provided by mag+ were exactly what we were looking for. This gave us the opportunity to achieve a very friendly and fluid sense of space with an element of playfulness. Stability and robustness were also matters of paramount importance. There was a deadline for the release date, so we couldn’t afford a rejection from Apple. mag+ delivered like a boss, and our app was approved on the first submission. We were also impressed by the prompt and friendly response of the support contacts, who were always there to help us with tech issues.

Do you have any future digital publishing plans with mag+?
We’re very excited, because we get to explore mag+ in even more creative and innovative ways. We have just finished redesigning and developing a corporate magazine that is currently on its way to the App Store, while at the same time we’re in the process of designing an interactive travel photography book as well as a groundbreaking graphic novel. We have no doubt that mag+ will help us create stunning projects of the same—and even higher—standards.