Vice Media U.K. is separating the Virtue team, its in-house agency, from its Vice Media team.

Virtue, with 70 staffers in the U.K., used to centralize its creatives, strategists and account managers so they could work on Vice digital work that’s distributed on Vice Media’s own channels, and Virtue work that can also be distributed on clients’ own platforms.

“We’re clarifying the work we’re doing from an operational, organizational and financial point of view,” said Matt O’Mara, CEO of Vice Media U.K.

The separation will help Virtue grow its business with clients that might not typically opt for distribution on Vice channels.

Virtue, which launched in 2006, has run branded-content campaigns with Chanel, Timberland and Lululemon in the past year. Lululemon used Virtue’s creative and strategic services for the global ad campaign “This is Yoga,” which showed the principles of yoga, such as meditation and self-discipline, being used by regular people, but it didn’t run on Vice Media’s properties. Priya Matadeen, gm of Virtue U.K., estimates roughly half of Virtue’s branded-content clients don’t distribute across Vice Media’s channels.

“We are a better partner if we don’t mandate that,” she said.

Ideally, closer direct client relationships could lead to more retainer-based partnerships with brands, which can last for months, rather than sporadic campaign-by-campaign work. Virtue, which operates an agency model, bills by the hour for creative work. By contrast, Vice Media has a pricing model more typical of media buys either through CPM, sponsorships, co-creation or production investment.

“Creative work is demanding in terms of resource,” said Sanjay Panchal, senior director in the partnerships and emerging media team at Essence. “If [Virtue] does more speculative work, it could want some element of a retainer to cover that.”

While most publishers have in-house branded content solutions, the creative is often an add-on to the media buy. U.K. publisher Great British Chefs is another that believes its strategy and audience insight is valuable enough on its own and is working with Kellogg’s to realign its strategy in the U.K., India and Mexico, but it is not running any advertising or media placement.

“Some clients buying our agency capabilities have had a tendency to think they get media distribution as a product of doing that; that’s not the case,” said O’Mara. “In the world of more transparency for brands and clients, this sets out the ideation and process in a fit-for-purpose and modern way.”

The company hopes to complete delineating the teams in the next month, in time for Rob Newlan’s arrival to the new role of CEO for Virtue in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Newlan is coming from Facebook, where he delivered brand campaigns, and worked at Unilever, Diageo and Coca-Cola before that.

Separating the teams will mean filling gaps to ensure each team can still perform creative and strategy work. For instance, the creative director is positioned at Vice Media, leaving a vacant post at Virtue. Virtue has also created a client services department rather than have project managers deal directly with clients, Matadeen said.

“Bigger clients need more process and rigor in order to deliver the right work for them,” she said. “We need enough process to function like the big boys, but not too much to stifle the creativity out of the whole place.”

Image via Vice

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