Two years ago, The New Republic did like many publishers before it and built an agency-style unit to sell big, lofty, content-based campaigns to marketers. The publisher was determined to avoid the missteps of other publishers that struggled to make branded content profitable.
There were some wins — it signed Casper, Getty Images and IBM. But the small agency quickly became strained by the demands of the work. One quarter, a credit card brand would want food-driven events attended by celebrity chefs and an influential crowd, while the next quarter it wanted a campaign targeting small businesses, said Kayvan Salmanpour, who was brought on to build the New Republic’s agency, called Novel. There was the pressure to deliver, while staying on top of whatever new social platform initiative was coming out. Less than a year in, the experiment ended when owner Chris Hughes sold the magazine and the studio was spun off.
“What I realized was that even though we had the editorial prestige, we didn’t have the scale, infrastructure, resources, technology to execute on that,” said Salmanpour, who is now chief content officer at Hearst Digital Media. “When you’re answering these RFPs you have to be as creative as possible. And it’s a case of whiplash because whatever’s hot and new probably has to be included.”