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New Duties for Do Do

Publisher and general manager of SCMP Hearst and long-time mastermind of Elle, Do Do Yeung takes on a new role at Hearst International China. Joyce Yip picks her brain on branding the women’s publication.

Despite carrying a title of her calibre, Do Do Yeung is petite in size, recognisable only by the fiery bob on her head; yet she exudes an energy and a passive power reminiscent of Miranda from Sex and the City.

As the mastermind behind Elle Hong Kong since 2001, the current publisher and general manager of SCMP Hearst was not only on the front lines for when the women’s publication moved from its original Hachette Filipacchi roof to Hearst in 2011 and later to South China Morning Group last year; but she is also one of the few revolutionists to survive the print-to-digital evolution.

Twelve years and a panoply of supplements later, Yeung is ready to join this world-renowned French brand in a new market – China.

Replacing Lena Yang, who steps up as managing director, Yeung moved to Shanghai this month to look after the newly conglomerated Elle brand – which was previously divided into magazine and online divisions.

The family now includes Elle; Elle Decoration – which stopped publishing in Hong Kong because of expensive production costs in 2009 and only returned as an annual book last year; Elle Men;; its mobile sites; e-commerce, a portal that links online retailers to editors’ choice of clothing; as well as an Elle credit card she said Hong Kong was only “thinking about having”.

“In Hong Kong, you need to go step by step if you want to push out new endeavours. Everything is so developed in the city already, so it’s difficult to see a breakthrough. Take the credit card, for example, a lot of people already have a wallet full of them, so there’s really no need for another one. But in China, it’s seen as a privilege to have one, so there’s a lot of space for us to expand.”

Founded by Lagardère decades ago, Elle is grouped under Hearst International in China and, in Hong Kong, SCMP Hearst – a joint venture that formed between two publishers in 2011 after the Hong Kong publisher took over Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, CosmoGirl and, perhaps soon, another men’s title.

You have to pick your brain in the online sphere.

But despite the change in management, Yeung says the core of her job remains the same: establish Elle as a brand that extends past a print publication.

“Elle started out as a magazine, but as people’s attention steers to apps, mobile or online, digitalisation becomes a need. But, contrary to popular belief online will be the demise of magazines, the two mediums can actually exist on the same plane,” says Yeung, adding the online spin-offs are never replicas of print, but snappier updates that target a younger audience compared with the text-heavy print spreads that are still perceived as “a more luxurious medium that should be enjoyed in a relaxed environment”.

However, the trick to setting a higher price tag for online advertisers – which is the biggest problem publications face in justifying their move from the money making traditional medium – is to let advertisers incorporate their content into the editorial or layout of the website rather than just offering traditional banner ads.

“You really have to pick your brain to be as creative as possible in the online sphere.”

The idea of treating the publication as a brand arose in early 2000, when Yeung launched Elle Accessories. In the latter part of the decade, the roster of supplements grew aggressively to include Elle Shopping, Elle Beauty Star and Elle Wedding, the dual version – which offers a deluxe packaging that comes with a premium gift and costs double the price than that of the normal version – and Elle Men, a concept born in Hong Kong.


“The dual version came at a time when crossovers between different brands were getting really popular, so it’s our strategy of grabbing new audiences by gifts,” she says, adding the dual version brought in a 20% growth in readership.

“As for the men’s magazine, we had a lot of debate about the name when Elle Men first started: people were weary that Elle means female in French, which would clash with ‘Men’. But to me, Elle is a brand, not a gender.”

Elle’s playground is not restricted to media: right now, the women’s title extends to luggage, fashion and in some countries cafés, to name but a few; and Yeung jokes she often imagines seeing the brand as the name of a modelling agency, a photography studio or even acting schools for children.

“We have to keep ourselves related to women and lifestyle, of course,” she says. “It won’t make sense for Elle to have a line of computers, for example, but imagine all those things. Wouldn’t it be amazing if they all came true?”

Although her fantasies will take a while to turn to reality, Yeung already has enough on her plate.

“I will miss Hong Kong, but China is extremely exciting for me. I want to see where the country can take our brand.”

SCMP Hearst milestone




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