Refinery29 stacked the house for its presentation to advertisers as part of the weeklong digital NewFronts on Wednesday — literally. The balcony at The Town Hall in Midtown Manhattan was packed with Refinery29 staffers, whose enthusiastic cheers, applause and air horns acted as an effective hype machine during the hourlong event. The theme was “abundance.”
After an introductory video that made good on the sign in the lobby that warned there would be a strobe light, Refinery29’s four cofounders — Justin Stefano, Philippe von Borries, Piera Gelardi and Christene Barberich — took the stage to thank the marketers in the audience for “showing up and supporting the company’s mission.” The cofounders touched on the transformational time in media, but managed to frame it as a positive.
“We all know that money is power,” Gelardi said, in reference to the empowered women that make up Refinery29’s demographic. The same statement can be applied to the advertisers. After a spoken word performance by “The Survival Guide to Bullying” author Aija Mayrock ended with a take on the event’s tag line: “Don’t you dare change the channel, we are channeling the change,” chief content officer Amy Emmerich came on stage to link the event’s Town Hall setting with its historical origins that hearken back to the Suffragettes.
“I love a generous partner. Not those kind of partners, you dirty animal,” she said, after encouraging the audience to stand and high-five their neighbors. “Strategic partners!”
Emmerich then teased several video series that will be made with strategic partners, including a collection of PSAs made with Planned Parenthood and hosted by Rachel Bloom. Other upcoming series focus on underrepresented voices — Asian, black and LGBTQ.
Gelardi returned to talk about “all things experiential” and the success of 29 Rooms, the company’s flagship art-meets-commerce Instagram moment. This year, she said, the 29 Rooms franchise will expand beyond New York and Los Angeles to Chicago and San Francisco and then, the world, and grow to include live performances.
Speaking of international expansion, new chief operating officer Sarah Personette revealed that the company planned to expand its footprint to France and Canada. And like Condé Nast, Refinery29 said it will create an OTT channel, the better to tell “young progressive stories.”
The event closed with a performance by indie hip-hop artist Lizzo and a shower of confetti.
Naturally, the balcony cheered.
Read WWD’s coverage of the 2018 NewFronts: