110 in 5*

Christmas came early this year (well, today) as the Asian Publishing Awards announced its list of winners for 2014. A total of 10 awards have been given to Ink Singapore titles, bringing the tally of awards won in the last five years to 110 *(thanks to Hamish for that stat). Wins came in two categories — the Gold Award and the Excellence Award —and if you want to see who won what, just keep scrolling down. Congratulations, everybody, what a great way to close 2014. (Posted by Tara Sering)

Jetstar Asia, Gold Award for Best Use of Illustration

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Scoot, Gold Award for Best Editorial Brand Projection

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Smile for Cebu Pacific Airlines, Gold Award for Best Wellness Feature

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Smile for Cebu Pacific Airlines, Gold Award for Best Use of Typography

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Jetstar Asia July 2014, Excellence Award for Best Cover Design

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Scoot, Excellence Award for Best Cover Design

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Fah Thai‘s “Welcome to the Punch”, Excellence Award for Best Photo Documentary

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Tiger Tales for Tigerair’s “Aloha, Taiwan”, Excellence Award for Best Use of Illustration

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Fah Thai, Excellence Award for Best Use of Illustration

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Tiger Tales for Tigerair’s “On the road again”, Excellence Award for Best Use of Illustration

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Behind the scenes at Smile

If you haven’t seen the latest Smile cover, well, we think it’s a bit a special.

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And no, that is not Photoshop trickery. It’s just what happens when you take a model out on a boat in the Philippines.

Seeing the dolphins in Bais Bay was a planned stop on the itinerary and the only issue (apart from getting up at 4am to make sure we were all in the boat by 6.30am) was the weather. The monsoon season was just starting and it had been raining every day before we got to Dumaguete, which was problematic because dolphins apparently only come up to the surface to catch the sun.

The morning we set out for the bay it was drizzling and the sky was overcast. I thought, well, if we don’t see dolphins we at least get a boat ride, which is always fun. There were other spots we wanted to shoot at, like a well-known sandbar further out. The rain held off and although it took a while the dolphins did show up. Initially they were coy, surfacing quite a distance from us. The boatmen said they take some time to warm up but once they get into it, they start swimming alongside the boat. I knew from a previous dolphin-watching trip that they respond to cheers and applause, so we all set up making a racket. And what do you know, it worked! The rain did come down later but by then we’d got everything we wanted, including wildlife. (Posted by Tara Sering, Smile editor)

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Prepping the model

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Off on the shoot

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Out on the boat

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Our cover stars make an appearance

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Dolphin outtake

2 for 1 Smile

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After a month of redesigning the cover and the inside pages for Smile‘s April 2014 issue, we thought we’d make it extra special by running two different cover images to go with the main feature. And anyway, we loved northern Palawan so much we couldn’t decide what the highlight of the cover shoot was — on the one hand, there’s the rather surreal Calauit Island, where you’ll find 22 giraffes and a lot of zebras not at all endemic to the Philippines (we’ve had a camel on the cover, so we thought a giraffe or two would make a nice follow-though); and on the other, equally surreal lakes and seas, where several sunken Japanese wartime ships make for memorable wreck diving. We had two photographers at the shoot (there’s a running theme here), a husband-and-wife team, two shooting days, and what seemed like two million images to plough through when the shoot was done (lucky for us photo editor Jenny Penas always has her wits about her and knew exactly how to shorten the list).

Art director Marlon Espino dreamed up with the new cover look and worked with a Manila-based design duo, Inksurge, on the main cover screamer.

The two April covers, along with Smile‘s new look (thanks Marlon and Pete), debuted on all Cebu Pacific flights yesterday (and maybe in a newsstand somewhere in the Philippines a week later), or you can view it online here. Also, just for fun (and to make more friends on Facebook), our deputy editor and social media sergeant Kat Mateo is running a which-one-do-you-prefer poll here. Tell us your choice in the comments box, and maybe in two days we’ll include a personality interpretation.

Special shoutout to the wonder women of the production team, Helen and Sandy, who were able to swing this printing freebie. (Posted by Tara Sering)

Johnny Depp’s Smile

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This is not Photoshop-trickery. That really is Johnny Depp reading a copy of Smile, the magazine produced by Ink Singapore for Filipino airline Cebu Pacific. Editor Tara Sering explains: “One of our regular contributors, Ruben V. Nepales, who covers Hollywood celebrities for our Chikka Interview section, is also the chairman of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (yup, the group that awards the Golden Globes). He’s Filipino but he migrated to the US a while back, in the mid-80s. He’s a very sweet man who said yes right away when we first asked him to do a celebrity interview for us last year. We’ve sent him a wish list of celebrities we’d like to see reading the magazine (personally am keeping my fingers crossed for Edward Norton), and we post these photos on the Smile Facebook Page as a teaser for the next issue’s celebrity interview.” (Posted by AndrewH)

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Smile gets social

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Smile magazine has tremendous online presence. The magazine has been on Facebook for a while and a little over a year ago we decided to actively expand our online network. Smile has always had an emotional connection with its readers, nearly 90% of whom are Filipinos, because of a clearly defined base (country, identity). The exercise of expanding the Smile brand beyond the print edition has given us fresh insights about our followers. For instance, when it comes to contests, no prize is too small — it’s getting the most likes that counts.

The journey so far, in numbers:

5,668: Number of current Facebook followers. Over a year ago, this was in the mid-1000s, and we’ve since discovered how to pump steroids into this figure: contests, contests, and more contests. It says a lot about how sweet our followers are — we get the same enthusiastic response whether we’re giving away a hotel stay or a hand sanitizer in a bottle the size of a thumb. We have a page in the printed magazine dedicated to online updates where we put little snippets that tell readers how we’re doing online, and that they might be missing out if they’re not yet in our social network (FOMO, as we all know, is quite a common affliction). It’s also where we announce winners of our online contests.

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2: Number of times a week our Facebook page gets updated. We like to highlight whatever is in the magazine for the month (especially stories that took an entire village and a lot of nail-biting to put together), so we post website links to those features onto our FB timeline, where it then takes a life of its own and goes viral. It’s usually the people mentioned in a feature who let their friends know they’re in the magazine.

2: Number of times a month we give away freebies on Facebook. Also the number of times the comments box goes nuts with contest entries. (4,568,5675: Number of sunset photos we get whenever we ask followers to send in vacation photos — it might be worth holding a contest for the most plausible explanation for this phenomenon).

10,000: Targeted number of followers on Facebook by October. Unless there’s a way of taking this back from Hugh, but he looked like he’d written it down somewhere on his iPad, in which case, yeah! 10,000! By October! That’s about 5,000 more in 5 months! OMG!

93,587: Unique pageviews for the Smile website, www.cebusmile.com, at the beginning of this year (January 2013). Before this bit of good news courtesy of Google Analytics, graphs were all Klingon to me; now there’s nothing more enjoyable than connecting the blue dots (especially when they go up).

182:  Number of followers on Instagram. We like to keep followers guessing what the next cover destination will be, so we throw a few behind-the-scenes snaps their way while we’re shooting on location. Also we really like how our random snaps just transform with one click of a filter.

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7: Years of Smile by October 2013. So there’s going to be a big party in Manila. You’re all invited

Next up: We’ve partnered up with Cebu Pacific Airlines, which has 891,762 followers on Facebook and gets a million website hits on average a month, to up each other’s site traffic. Every time the airline posts a new promotion (usually something crazy like one-peso fares) on their Facebook page, they do so with a link to a Smile feature on that destination, and their followers are then led to our website or to our Facebook page. (Posted by Tara FT Sering)