Financial viability of many industries tumbled down the slippery slope, namely, journalism and media. But some instead viewed the period as a renaissance open with opportunity. This was as such the case with Bence, a cross-platform media virtuoso who specializes in the niche area of luxury and branded journalism.
“I communicate the core message of the brand without too much adornment,” Bence said. “Ultimately the accomplishment is more than awareness. Whether it’s flights, hotels or fashion, the communicative power has a commercial imperative behind it. After all, with falling ad revenues, e-commerce is a business model that even the mightiest magazines are beginning to emulate.”
Bence, then in 2008, was co-publisher at Ink Global, a leading British travel media publisher that produces more than 25 magazines for many of the world’s largest airlines, and boasts an annual reach of more than 750 million passengers.
“Around about the time of the crash in 2008, magazine ad venues fell off a cliff,” said Bence, a Surrey native who moved to London and later, Los Angeles. “We had to re-focus, and chose to push our titles in a more luxury-orientated direction. The Style Issue and the Luxury Issue were born out of that, and boosted our revenues. We did that by collaborating with relevant fashion brands like Samsonite and Tommy Hilfiger in an intelligent and meaningful way. We offered tailor-made editorial-style fashion shoots that followed models frolicking around a city, which helped bring the destination alive too.”
It came as no surprise that Bence’s shifting editorial directive for Ink Global returned results for all extensions, even during the tumultuous financial crisis. Said Bence, whose tenure at Ink Global ran for seven years, “The airline sold more flights, the fashion houses sold more apparel and we sold ads. The economic downturn forced us to become more creative, and in so doing, I left the magazine in better health than when I found it.”
With newspaper roots and magazine affinity, it’s been precisely this variety of enterprise that Bence has embodied to form an exemplary career in arts, culture and lifestyle storytelling. Altogether, his mark in the field is defined by outstanding, sustained international excellence. Throughout his career, Bence has shown a remarkable resiliency and a willingness to reposition himself as many times as necessary to get the job done.
For more than a decade and prior to working with Ink Global, Bence was the lifestyle editor at Attitude, Europe’s top-selling style magazine for gay men. “I began to understand what real luxury meant, the substance underneath the veneer,” said Bence, who currently serves as editor at large for BritWeek Magazine. “I got to experience the very best of the world through journalism: I traveled on the Orient Express to Venice, flew over the African savannas, stayed at a tycoon’s safari lodge, and landed by seaplane in the Maldives.”
Specific to the realm of luxury and branded journalism, Bence has now written for many prestigious publications including b.there! magazine, American Express’ Centurion and Departures, Civilian Global, Conde Nast Traveller, jetStyle, Monocle, Mr & Mrs Smith, United Airlines’ Rhapsody and more.
“E.B. White said the role of the writer is to lift people up and I believe that’s the role of every journalist and creator. In the luxury sector, the journalist takes on the added role of umpire and curator, helping those already in-the-know to feel even more informed and educated, not sold to,” said Bence.
Recognizing Bence’s world-class talent as a journalist and editor is creative director Gary Harvey, who has previously served as creative director for True Religion Jeans and Levi Strauss & Co. “Richard's research and connections allow him to bring new perspectives and new angles into familiar stories,” said Harvey. “He is an incredibly successful fashion, style and lifestyle commentator. One of the things that sets Richard apart is his journalistic voice. Each piece is tailored to a specific audience, be it live radio, print, written word or quick soundbite updates on social media. He has captured the art of connecting imagery to the written and spoken word.”
Harvey saw firsthand how Bence nimbly navigates the work of a journalist who commands a discernible presence from the branding perspective. “Richard is great at the ‘art of the interview.’ When he wrote a profile on me during my time as the creative director for Levi's Europe, he was well-prepared, thoroughly researched and extremely charming. Of all the many pieces written about me and my career this piece was one of the best!”
Following his time with Ink Global, Bence’s next endeavor saw him man the role of editor in chief for CoutureLab, a widely celebrated luxury e-commerce site. From 2011 to 2012, he spearheaded all web copy, product descriptions, marketing campaigns, newsletters and CoutureLab’s blog, while also commissioning interviews and collectively shaping the site’s editorial content. Bence worked with many renowned companies and designers as CoutureLab’s editor in chief including Jonathan Adler, Ann Demeulemeester, Rick Owens, Allegra Hicks and Alexis Mabille, to name a few.
“It was there that I truly got to see the commercial value of content,” he said. “At a magazine, you are removed from your audience — especially inflight — but with e-commerce, you have immediate results on how popular a story is or isn't by monitoring the number of clicks. High-end luxury is by nature a niche audience with a limited supply, but the principle is still the same. My job is to make them fall in love with the story behind the brand, then the ‘click to buy’ happens effortlessly.”
Parlaying the experience and deepening his reach into high-end luxury publishing, Bence would go on to serve as managing editor during 2013 and 2014 for Barclays’ Little Book of Wonders, an award-winning, invitation-only website and lifestyle service covering all things luxury for Barclays’ ultra high net worth clients. While overseeing editorial in conjunction with a who’s who list of manufacturers of the finer things, Bence worked with luxury brands including Bentley, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Gucci, Rolex and Tiffany & Co., among many others.
“In the case of CoutureLab and Little Book of Wonders in particular, the jetset audience travels between their homes in London, Paris and New York,” said Bence. “They already have everything they need and more. For them, luxury is about exclusivity and personal service, as well as products with a story and tradition behind them. My role is to help people discern what matters in the world and steer them away from meaningless homogeneity.”
Bence described the Little Book of Wonders as little novellas that communicate the story of a brand in 300 words. Encapsulating the needed message brought with it challenges. Journalists were charged the task to deliver writing that had clarity, brevity, simplicity and humanity, all at the same time.
“We strip it down to the basics and get to the very heart and soul of the product,” Bence said. “True luxury whispers, it doesn’t shout. As the conduits between our ultra-informed readership and the highly prestigious brand — whether it be a fashion house or a venerable car maker — we allow one to speak to the other, a bit like an introduction made at an elegant soiree by a courteous host.”
Joanna Steel, content and creative manager for Barclays and the Little Book of Wonders, said, “Richard was an absolute pleasure to collaborate with. Not only did he curate our editorial content, but he also wrote a number of cutting edge articles for the site. He brought fresh insight to the Little Book of Wonders and I was most pleased with his deep understanding and knowledge of the luxury sector we work in. Richard proved to be a great asset to Little Book of Wonders with his expert understanding of the luxury sector as well a branding – a combination which is hard to find. He is sorely missed!”
Since 2014, Bence has served as editorial director for Camberwell Consulting, a U.S.-based branding agency focused in the digital spectrum that owns a bi-coastal partnership with Manic Media, a production agency specializing in branded videos. Manic Media is co-founded by Mark Jolly, a 20-year content director and journalist who founded the travel sites, GloboMaestro and globorati. Jolly was a contributing editor at Condé Nast Traveler and his work has been published in the New York Times, Times of London, New York magazine and others.
Of Bence’s expertise, Jolly said, “Throughout his career, he has achieved great success and notoriety earning an esteemed reputation as a pioneer of the luxury world. Richard’s work has always proved extraordinarily creative and critical to the success of the projects he has been involved with. He works well to deadlines and to budgets, running a team and championing high-end brands which is why I asked him to be Manic Media's West Coast Head of Development. Creating branded video for lifestyle companies is what Manic Media excels at, and I look forward to watching this bi-coastal partnership with Richard flourish.”
For more information and to sample some of the latest and greatest from Richard Bence, visit: www.richard-bence.com