Vice said it is putting content from specialty areas of its broad digital footprint — brands such as Munchies, Noisey, Motherboard and Vice News, long promoted as semi-autonomous units — under the bigger tent of Vice.com.
The change, which takes effect May 2, was announced at the company’s NewFronts presentation to media buyers at Chinatown’s Jing Fong Restaurant (complete with tables full of dim sum). Vice says it reaches some 300 million consumers a month across its various holdings, which also include the Viceland cable network. In a crowded landscape of fluctuating digital platforms, the mission of the NewFront was to update buyers on how their messages can find an audience thanks to a strategy Vice sees as more coherent and efficient.
Nancy Dubuc, the former head of A+E Networks who joined Vice as CEO last year, replacing co-founder Shane Smith, assured attendees at the event that “change and evolution are in our DNA, thanks to Papa Shane, who’s here with us today.” The new boss has tackled a formidable challenge in reorganizing the company, which has gone through downsizing in the wake of unfavorable press attention for the boys’-club culture it was alleged to have fostered since its founding as a Montreal magazine.
Dubuc said Vice’s 25-year history is defined by something else, however: a unique ability to help brands stay young. Noting that more than half of the world’s population younger than 30 years old, she said, “We really deeply understand how they use media and how they understand your brands through media. Because of how young this world is, we know that Vice’s megaphone as a brand is really just beginning to make an impact.”
As to her role, Dubuc said she has “the same forward-looking feeling every day I walk into those Brooklyn offices. I must have been asked 100 times in the past year, ‘So, why did you join Vice?’ And the answer is actually quite simple. First, Shane. And second, passion and fun. And it has nothing to do with adult supervision.”
The last line alluded to a widespread assumption about the circumstances of Dubuc’s arrival as CEO. Her former employer, A+E, co-owned by Disney and Hearst, has invested hundreds of millions in the company, which has also sold stakes to Fox and private equity firm TPG in recent years. As its valuation climbed past $4 billion, the notion of having a more professionally bred leader to rein in the company’s wilder impulses took root. (A recent AdAge cover story was headlined, “Adult Supervision.”)
Another notable news element to come out of the hourlong presentation was the company’s decision to reiterate its appeal to advertisers to reconsider brand safety practice of keyword blacklists. While the lists came into being as a way of counter-acting the risk of brand messages being placed against offensive content (a particular problem on YouTube of late), Vice said the list of banned words carries a distinct downside. Citing internal research, the company said the lists restrict content that promotes diversity and inclusion.
Vice said it will no longer block 25 words and phrases often put forward on keyword blacklists. The list of words includes the following: “bisexual, gay, LGBTQ, transgender, HIV, lesbian, gender, queer, feminist, pregnant, interracial, Middle Eastern, Arab, Asian, Latina/o, Jewish, Muslim, Islamic, Christian, hijab, global warming, climate change, refugee, immigrant, overweight/fat.”
Viceland announced a couple of new and returning shows, including Jasper & Errol’s First Time (premiering June 11), with Odd Future’s Jasper and Errol trying a range of new experiences; and The Wrestlers, an unscripted followup to The Dark Side of the Ring.
Vice News also plans a long-form look at the many, many Democratic candidates running for president in 2020, called The Contenders.