Instyle to re-launch in Australia via independent publisher, with Justine Cullen at the helm

Independent advertising agency Bashful Group is expanding into publishing with the launch of independent publisher True North, which will see former Elle Australia editor Justine Cullen take the helm as chief content officer.

Bashful Group chief executive Simon Bookallil told Mumbrella the new division will run separately from other companies under the Bashful Group umbrella, but said he was unable to confirm at this stage that the group has snapped up the digital licensing rights of Instyle in Australia. 

“We believe independent publishing has a bright future, focusing both on digital, and real-life experiences,” Bookallil said. “We feel we know what brands want and need from commercial partners and how we can bring creative nous to the publishing business into the future. The time is now, there is no better time to launch this company.”

He said he believes there are “enormous opportunities for publishing that can reach passionate and motivated audiences”, while also developing commercially-minded and sophisticated content that’s “more nimble” than what’s out there.

“True North’s goal is to work directly with brands on creating purely commercial content or publications, as well as launching consumer-focused publications of its own,” said Bookallil. “The company will offer quality digital experiences, must-attend events, and our focus is luxury content activations. Digital first. Events, awards, collaborations, podcasts, and we have some exciting announcements that we will soon hopefully be able to share with everyone.”

Cullen admitted to Mumbrella she thinks this will be a real opportunity for True North to work with legacy brands, and that part of the appeal is that it’s not a legacy publisher.

“Being an independent publisher means we can be a lot more nimble and do things right from the very beginning. For me, it’s been really exciting as we’ve worked on this first launch to be building a site in a very different way to how you would build a site at a big publishing house,” she said.

“Being independent means we can be a lot more nimble, but also really invest in what we see as really important for each individual brand, and not be beholden to the traditional ways of doing things. It’s a really exciting opportunity to look at publishing, and re-imagining it for the world we live in now.”

In terms of commercial partnerships, Cullen was unable to share further details until the launch in a few weeks, but said there were “a lot of exciting things happening” that she’ll share when she can.

“We’re able to look at new ways of partnering with our clients and with our advertisers. It’s really about partnering across new verticals, new ventures, different ways of looking at how we can collaborate with our partners, and having a lot of flexibility there to play and create new verticals and categories.

Bashful Group, is a group of businesses, the creative ad agency, Bashful who work with the likes of OPSM, Go Daddy, P&O Cruises, Laser Clinics, Destination NSW, Zimmerman, while also owning luxury and fashion-focused creative agency, Smile, that works with brands such as Witchery, Shona Joy, Ksubi, and more.

As well as these agencies, the Bashful Group own a 50% share in TMC PR agency, which specialises in categories like fashion, beauty, luxury and lifestyle, with brands such as Charlotte Tilbury, Sportscraft, GDH Hair, and more. 

“There are so many different arms of this business that can help us in a really modern way to speak to an audience, it’s very exciting,” Cullen concluded. 


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