People have been ringing the death knell for publishers for years now. Yet they’re still kicking. In fact, some are making sure they remain relevant by buying experiential agencies. Here’s why I think this makes sense
Publishers Pair with Experiential Agencies
Last year, Vice Media purchased a Brooklyn-based experiential agency, to help it produce more events for its editorial properties and advertising clients. The agency, Villain, (could there be better name alignment than Vice and Villain?) already produces more than 300 events annually, ranging from live music performances to branded “experiential” events. Its client list has included PepsiCo, Rockstar Games and Red Bull Music Academy. Now, Vice can tap that expertise to reach a new, younger audience.
Another example is the pairing of Bustle Digital Group and Flavorpill Media Inc. Flavorpill, which has more than 500,000 subscribers (primarily in New York City) has partnered in the past with Uber and Perrier. Now it will work to promote Bustle.
“Through this acquisition, we are not only looking to establish great events, but to also deepen engagement with our readers and partners that can’t be formed solely online,” said Deb Schwartz, chief financial officer of Bustle Digital Group, in a statement cited in Adweek.
Even the stalwart New York Times has its own experiential arm having acquired Fake Love in 2016. It’s an ongoing trend. But what drives this business decision?
Why these Partnerships Make Sense
Publishing needs to establish itself with younger generations — those people more likely to interact with their mobile devices and social media than traditionally published content.
The embrace of experiential marketing recognizes that millennials are focused on experiences. To compete, these publishers can’t rely only on traditional magazine or network messaging. They need to find new, engaging ways to interact with consumers — and that’s what experiential agencies do best.
Publishers are looking to expand the scope of work they do with brands and marketers. The Times, for instance, in 2017 helped put Kia’s latest model Cadenza sedan in an augmented reality presentation, turned the car into a musical instrument, and more.
Branded content is already a core competency for many publishers, but with the move into experiential they can make their offerings work even better, providing “more of an end-to-end solution.”
Additionally, media is only one part of the equation in an omnichannel marketing environment. “Today, no CMO wants to talk about banners. What they do want to talk about is services: experiential, strategy, creative. In the new world order, media is the downstream thing that may or may not be part of the package,” Sebastian Tomich, svp of advertising at The New York Times and the head of T Brand Studio told Digiday.
Plus, there’s money to be had in experiential. After all, CMOs are increasing their experiential spend: * one in three CMOs said experiential marketing would soak up at least one-fifth of their marketing budgets in three to five years — brand marketing agency Freeman.
* 90% of CMOs surveyed by the Event Marketing Institute said they would increase the amount of money they allocated to events and experiences in the following year.
In the era when content is king, publishers can gain efficient content engines from branded events. Consider The Fader magazine, which has developed a popular mini-event within the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. Its Fader Fort was a single hotel room when it began, but more than 15 years later the Fort hosts several days of up-and-coming artists to “put [its] brand partners in front of consumers in really unique and authentic ways.” At the same time, the concerts are live-streamed on Fader’s site and its social media accounts get great fodder.
Publishers and media companies are seeing experiential as their ticket to reach younger audiences, enhance relevance, expand reach, and access fresh resources to build their own brands while helping their partners to strategize too. Publishers have experience working with a wide range of brands while their experiential arms can employ that knowledge and skill set in smart and sophisticated ways out in the world, face-to-face with the customers.
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