Given the beleaguered print world these days, more journalists and executives have been hooking their stars to the digital world. Well, Elle and parent company Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S. have reversed the trend — luring someone from the tech sector to succeed Carol Smith, the magazine’s former senior vice president and chief brand officer, who decamped in April to Condé Nast. Effective July 5, Robin Domeniconi, who had been vice president of U.S. advertising sales, marketing and publishing for Microsoft, will step into Smith’s shoes, Alain Lemarchand, Hachette’s U.S. president and chief executive officer, said Friday. “[Robin’s] knowledge of the digital space and her clear ability to grow the business on all platforms will be a great asset to the Elle group,” he said. Lemarchand might also have mentioned that Domeniconi, whose name will also sit atop Margaret Russell’s at Elle Décor, will need to buoy the print side and fast; Elle trailed behind InStyle and Vogue in ad pages during the first half of 2010. (Under Smith, Elle finished 2009 with more ad pages than Vogue — considered a major feat, although their page rates are certainly different.) It makes sense, then, that one of Domeniconi’s first assignments is to hire a vice president, brand publisher, which she told WWD she plans to accomplish in two to four weeks. (In this respect, the company seemingly reworked its initial hiring plan, which was said to involve finding a publisher first and filling the higher-up brand-officer position after that.)
During her year and a half at Microsoft, Domeniconi oversaw sales and marketing for the company’s media properties and partners, such as MSN, Windows Live, Xbox Live, Live Search, Facebook and WSJ Digital. She was also involved in the recent launch of the women’s lifestyle Web site Glo.com — a collaboration between MSN, Hachette and BermanBraun. (Lemarchand said Domeniconi “will continue her strong connection” to Glo.com in her new role at Elle.) Prior to joining Microsoft in November 2008, Domeniconi was a senior adviser at Avista Capital Partners, and, before that, president of Time Inc.’s Media Group and the president and publisher of Real Simple from 1999 to 2005.
“I have such a passion for building brands,” Domeniconi told WWD,” and when I was working on Glo, it ignited my passions again [and made me] want to get back to building brands from a content and an audience perspective — I was missing that at the last several jobs I had.” In terms of new revenue streams, Domeniconi said she was interested in exploring product licensing deals, pointing to Elle’s clothing line at Kohl’s and a new agreement with the chain for an Elle Décor product range as examples. “It could be digital, it could be television shows, it could be product,” she noted. “Basically, wherever we see the brand holding true to its mission and [where it] makes sense on other platforms and in other products,” including on the iPad, online and on mobile devices. (She added, somewhat cryptically, “I already, in my mind, have a place where I think we would like to go first…another area of technology that I don’t think has been exploited yet by brands such as Elle,” though she declined further clarification.)
Like her predecessor, Domeniconi will have oversight of all content, advertising, digital platforms and brand development within the Elle group — which means Elle’s editor in chief, Robbie Myers, will report to Domeniconi just like she did to Smith. However, Domeniconi said she won’t be giving orders but rather will look to Myers as a keeper of the Elle brand — but, then again, she hasn’t taken control yet. “She has a very clear and powerful vision of Elle’s editorial voice on all platforms,” Domeniconi said of Myers, “and while, yes, my name will be above hers on the masthead, she is absolutely the brand steward. She knows, she lives, she breathes this brand…[and] there are a number of ways that we’ll work as partners.” (Smith might not have viewed it that way.)
In the next few months, all eyes will certainly be focused on Elle, as the title looks to its 25th anniversary in the U.S. this fall, leaving little room for a learning curve. Indeed, the debut of Elle’s iPad edition and the release of the Joe Zee-edited coffee-table book, tentatively titled “The Ellements of Style,” are both pegged to the October anniversary issue.
Meanwhile, Anne Welch, who was Smith’s number two and had been acting chief brand officer since Smith’s departure, has been named vice president, brand operations.