REWARDING CONA: Condé Nast keeps locking down moneymakers. First, it was Anna Wintour, and now it’s a name less known in popular culture but vital to the publisher. On Wednesday, Louis Cona, chief marketing officer, the person responsible for the lucrative group buys across several magazines, was named president and chief revenue officer of the media group. The president’s title hadn’t been revived since 2009, when Richard Beckman held it along with his chief marketing officer one.
The new title, like the old one, has him in charge of “leading all revenue generation at the corporate level,” including advertising and marketing services.
Why the promotion now?
In early fall of last year, even before layoffs hit Condé Nast in October, Cona had been vocal about his dissatisfaction with his title and seriously considered leaving, said several sources at Condé and in the marketing world. That option was still on the table at the publishers’ meeting in Palm Beach in January. Cona, in the middle of renegotiating his contract, casually spoke in private about the possibility of calling it quits, or retiring. He gave the impression of someone who could walk away in a day and be satisfied. Even if he renewed, it was likely to be for a two-year arrangement instead of five. He was 55 and there was that new house in Sag Harbor to enjoy. Additionally, Cona felt growing frustration over the pressure his group was under.
In the last few years, Condé, under president Bob Sauerberg, has sought to grow revenue streams outside of its core advertising business, whether it be from charging more for its magazines or from so-called alternative sources, like licensing and the new entertainment division.
It’s a challenge all publishers are facing. But as these other new businesses have been slow to come online, or to scale, the media group was still generating the lion’s share of Condé’s revenue. There are the large media buys across several magazines that are still the company’s bread and butter, but the media group now also handles sales for Condé Nast Entertainment and the marketing services unit, which has recently landed high-profile clients like Wal-Mart, for whom Condé produces a beauty shopper distributed in-store.
“He’s the one out there hustling for Condé,” an insider said. “Bob and [chief executive officer] Chuck [Townsend] are not on the street.”
So Cona is valuable at Condé. He is a career salesman with far-reaching roots in print advertising, including stints as the founding associate publisher at InStyle, and later the top publishing jobs at Vanity Fair and the New Yorker; he came to the media group in 2008 as senior vice president, essentially Beckman’s number two. With the help of digital-savvy executives, like vice president of corporate partnerships Josh Stinchcomb, Cona has also nimbly navigated the changing media advertising landscape in the last several years while keeping relationships with the core print advertisers. He was named chief marketing officer in 2010.
By all accounts, the media group has thrived under his watch, and last summer, Cona finally came to the conclusion, belatedly, that it might be worthwhile to have a combined corporate sales team selling all print, digital and mobile properties. Had he left, Condé would have lost the executive who is, for all intents and purposes, its face to the ad community. Up until the last minute, some marketers did not have reassurance that he would stick around and were nervously awaiting an announcement.
Now, with the new title, Condé rewards Cona and locks him down, at least for the time being, allowing more time for those other sources of revenue to kick into high gear.
“This new appointment reflects Lou’s success in growing ad revenue and evolving our advertiser relationships,” Townsend said in a statement. The media group will continue to oversee sales for the entertainment division. Cona was not available for comment.
And what of Cona’s previous title of chief marketing officer? Several insiders say chief administrative officer Jill Bright has lobbied for the job in the past, but they doubt she could earn it as her background is in human resources, not advertising. Bright did not comment.