Vice’s NewFront presentation at Spring Studios in New York on Friday afternoon was, as has come to be expected from the Brooklyn-based media company, more of a brief interlude before a party than a presentation to advertisers.
Waiting for the show to begin, the crowd spent an hour milling about and sipping drinks around a Vice and Everlast branded boxing ring, as statistics about Vice’s audience were projected on the walls. Vice’s audience, apparently, is more likely to attend college, donate to charity, buy hybrid cars, meditate, try new restaurants, work in IT, be self-employed, make more than $75,000 a year and consume seven or more alcoholic beverages a week.
Citations scrolled down the screen at the very end of the montage, showing links to ComScore studies. But set against pulsating music, nobody seemed overly interested in the data.
The event opened with a video recounting the company’s by now familiar origin story, from a Canadian punk magazine to a global media firm selling an edgy reputation to brands and investors.
Unlike last year, when Shane Smith spent his time on stage drinking, reciting poetry and bragging about disrupting the media industry, the Vice cofounder, chief executive officer and consummate showman was not physically in attendance.
“Since last year’s performance where I did a punk-rock, spoken-word version, I’m not allowed to come anymore,” Smith said, in a pre-recorded video message.
The hosts of one of Vice’s shows, functioning as the emcees, introduced a video of the company’s staffers and on-air personalities singing Vice’s praises. “We’re going to bring in a bunch of old white execs,” one said. “Psych!” They were going to show more videos, they explained, because that’s just how Vice rolls. After seeing a video of happy employees, and another one of happy brand partners (or, rather, “friends,” as the spot made a point of calling them), a video played touting brand safety and audience engagement, flashing images and statistics about its TV channel Viceland, which launched in February 2016.
There was a brief nod to a few new shows — “Nut & Bolts,” a program that traces how things get made; “The Therapist,” a show about rappers working through issues in therapy, and a scripted program that stars James Van Der Beek as a DJ.
“What up? We’re doing branded content in this b—-,” one of the emcees exclaimed. “That’s the difference, when you do branded content at Vice, the s–t doesn’t look mad corny.” Another plus, the hosts pointed out, was the ability to curse at Vice.
But the show’s main event was a boxing match between Vice star and “Fresh Off the Boat” author Eddie Huang and Vice producer Niall Cooney. The fight was broadcast on Facebook Live, but that didn’t stop the audience from documenting it with their phones. As Smith said during his video introduction, the stunt was meant to give people something to write about.
And if there’s one thing Smith is good at, it’s selling the story of Vice.
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