Though content studios are becoming increasingly commonplace for media companies, Condé Nast is attempting to position its newly expanded 23 Stories as a standalone agency.
The branded content arm of the company debuted in January 2015 as a one-stop shop to develop campaigns and distribute them throughout Condé Nast publications. Now more than 100 employees, 23 Stories is expanding its services to include event production, talent casting and consulting — and moving beyond service tied to Condé brands.
Condé has buffed up the capabilities on 23 Stories in recent months, expanding services with the acquisitions of experiential events company Pop2Life and event technology platform Ribyt in March. 23 Stories has demonstrated new capabilities with recent efforts. In August, it designed a print ad for the Fox television show “Empire,” which ran in Vanity Fair in August, and created a three-day pop-up event in New York City for the Lincoln Navigator that invited guests to test the new car.
This builds upon its existing outside brand work, including a June 2016 video campaign with Gucci produced in partnership with Gia Coppola. In addition to running on Condé Nast properties like Vogue and The New Yorker, the series also ran on Gucci.com.
“What we’re trying to build is a full agency apparatus that sits next to this editorial machine,” said Josh Stinchcomb, chief experience officer at Condé Nast and former svp and managing director of 23 Stories. ”We can offer the full gamut of agency services and pull minds from brands, depending on the project.”
Condé Nast founded 23 Stories in January 2015. Initially, editorial staff was tapped to assist with 23 Stories marketing campaigns, a move that many media critics decried a breach of the traditional editorial separation of church and state. Now, 23 Stories will operate autonomously with a staff comprised largely of former agency executives and strategists, and led by Condé Nast creative director Raul Martinez, a longtime Condé Nast employee and founder of the agency AR New York. 23 Stories still plans to consult with editors of the various Condé Nast publications, as needed, for specific brand campaigns and internal events.
“The whole idea of advertising has changed drastically in the last four to five years,” Martinez said. “What we can bring to the table is this customized team. Our brands cover the gamut on any lifestyle you can bring to the table.”
Elaine Welteroth, editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, worked closely with 23 Stories to develop the forthcoming summit, the brainchild of her editorial team. From an editorial perspective, she said moving into events was an important evolution for the brand. It’s intended to galvanize readers around issues the magazine has advocated for in recent months, including LGBT equality, women’s reproductive rights and female leadership in STEM fields.
In addition to the summit, Teen Vogue will host a series of meet-ups around the country that will allow readers to meet editors and hear various talks and panel discussions.
“We’re focusing on standing for progressive change,” Welteroth said. “Our community has really responded to that and embraced that mission. A natural phase two is to go a step further in activating our mission by giving our audiences the tools and resources within communities to be the change they want to see in the world.”
“Events are becoming increasingly interesting to marketers, because they’re becoming increasingly interesting to consumers,” Martinez said. “It’s an ironic reaction to an overly digitized world, where people crave real-life experiences, but still want to share them on social media. There’s a demand for experiential marketing, which has become a catalyst for content creation.”
Photo courtesy of 23 Stories for Gucci
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