Dirk Standen

The founding leader of Condé Nast’s branding agency is leaving the company, WWD has learned.

Dirk Standen, who led Condé’s 23 Stories agency since it started in 2015 but has been with the company in varying roles for 15 years, is leaving the publisher at a time of general upheaval.

Condé is rapidly consolidating in an attempt to get to a more digital-first approach and while its branding agency certainly has a future (it’s been one of few financial bright spots over the years) the role of editor in chief doesn’t seem to fit in with plans for efficiency. However, Stephanie Smith, currently senior editor of 23 Stories, is still in her role.

Standen wrote in a note that his tenure at Condé, which included a stint as editor in chief of the now defunct Style.com, has been “intense and intensely rewarding.” He called working with so many talented people over the years, on the editorial side and then the advertising side, “the thrill of a lifetime.”

“I’m looking forward to combining those experiences in my next adventure,” Standen added.

A Condé representative could not be immediately reached for comment.

The change comes only a few weeks after Condé revealed it was expanding and rebranding 23 Stories as CNX under John Deschner, who was tapped from outside the company to be managing director of the new branding group. This type of agency work, born under the 23 Stories name and with Standen’s oversight, has become a substantial source of revenue for Condé, which now does all kinds of agency-type work, such as creative campaigns and event production and casting, along with branded and “white label” content.

At the time of the rebranding and Deschner’s hiring, Anna Wintour, Condé’s artistic director and longtime editor in chief of Vogue, said the creative agency “has flourished since it was created just a few short years ago” and that expanding it “was a natural next step.”

As for Deschner — whom Condé said was not replacing Standen but filling a role left open by Josh Stinchcomb, who left over the summer to become chief revenue officer at Dow Jones — he’s spent nearly all of his career working in advertising. He was most recently chief innovation officer and managing director at TBWA/Chiat/Day, the U.S. arm of TBWA Worldwide, and international agency owned by Omnicom Group.