It’s a new day at Vice Media. The hip Brooklyn-based company is tweaking its brand identity and emphasizing its new leadership team — which makes sense in light of the fallout when The New York Times reported that the flipside of Vice’s reputation for edgy cool was a macho workplace atmosphere that was not friendly to women.
As in years past, the company closed out a week of digital media’s NewFront presentations to advertisers on Friday afternoon. But unlike other years, when it felt like a freewheeling party and a chance for marketers to let loose, this year was decidedly tame. There was still a bar and blaring music, but the event, held at Spring Studios, started at three in the afternoon as opposed to five and had a more subdued vibe.
Once again, Vice founder Shane Smith was not in attendance. But whereas last year he spoke to the crowd from his mansion in Los Angeles in a pre-recorded video message, this year he was merely mentioned in passing. Instead, it was Nancy Dubuc’s moment. Dubuc, the former head of A&E Networks, doesn’t actually take the reins until the end of the month.
“I keep pointing out to Shane that I’m still on Cobra,” she told the crowd, before giving a short but heartfelt speech about the power of Vice to act as a force for good and make the world a better place.
It was a far cry from Vice’s origin story, which the company had pushed in years past. Vice Media, which began as a Canadian punk magazine 23 years ago, became a Millennial media darling, known for its hip, provocative culture even as it has taken financial investment from media giants such as Fox and Disney, built out a HBO presence and established its creative agency. But at the end of 2017, Vice Media came under scrutiny for its workplace culture, and The New York Times published an investigation into sexual harassment at the network.
In response, Vice Media suspended president Andrew Creighton and fired chief digital officer Mike Germano, both of whom were named in the Times story and a planned editorial collaboration between Vogue and Vice was put on indefinite hold mere days before it launched, a decision sources attributed to the “loss of corporate sponsorship due to Vice’s struggles following the #MeToo investigation and continuing allegations” at the media company. Shane Smith revealed in March that he would move into a reduced role at the company and that he would be replaced by Dubuc.
Friday’s NewFront gave the faces on the executive team, which included senior vice president of content strategy Marsha Cooke, a chance to speak to the crowd of advertisers. While they were careful to frame the new Vice as an outgrowth of the old, it was clear that there was a new direction.
Cooke, a CBS veteran, said she “got a call from Shane” asking her to come work with him to “change the world.” “I don’t see how anyone could say no to that,” she said.
During the presentation, the company introduced a series called “She’s Running,” which profiles female candidates and a series hosted by Tom Arnold that follows the actor’s search for incriminating tapes of Donald Trump from his “Apprentice” days. Garage editor in chief Mark Guiducci showed a stylish trailer for an unscripted film that will follow 20 of Garage’s friends on a luxury train ride from Paris to Venice, ending right in time for the Venice Biennale. Dominique Delport, the new president of international and chief revenue officer, talked about Vice’s new acquisition of Villain, an experiential events company based in Brooklyn. Not surprisingly, there was no mention of the company’s flirtation with selling or going public.
The presentation ended with a “Vogueing” performance, which ties into “My House,” a Viceland series about the underground culture.
And perhaps showing Vice’s strength in understanding an audience, the presentation was kept extremely brief — the better to keep advertisers interested after a long week.
Read WWD’s coverage of the 2018 NewFronts: