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Publishers muscle in on ad agency turf: Condé Nast unveils its Creative Studio Network

Mired in losses (Condé Nast Publications lost $120 million in 2017 whilst Condé Nast International lost $50 million in its last reported figures for 2016), Condé Nast has experienced another ‘annus horribilis‘ with the announcement of the departure of its CEO Bob Sauerberg, shrinking print advertising sales, for sale signs around Brides, W and Golf Digest, and not least the shutting of regular print editions of a number of titles, including most recently Glamour. 

“Anger. Denial. Chaos.” is what one source recently told trade title WWD when describing the company over the last decade and its response to the digital wave that overtook it. 

It’s no surprise then that the publisher is looking to make up ground and develop new revenue streams, whilst simultaneously leveraging the brand values that made the privately-owned company the most famous lifestyle magazine publisher in the world, renowned for its luxurious (and coveted) brands such as Condé Nast Traveller, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Tatler, et al. 

The publisher (under its Condé Nast International umbrella) has this week unveiled its ‘Creative Studio Network’, unifying its eleven creative departments under a single worldwide brand identity that is “dedicated to servicing the needs of commercial partners around the world.”

Under the new umbrella, Condé Nast’s creative departments across countries including the UK, China, India, Japan and Russia will collaborate on global client briefs, the first being a campaign for luxury car marque, Lexus.

The publisher says the studios will fully align their operations “as full-scale creative service agencies.” According to Condé Nast, core offerings will include branded/native content solutions, event integration, talent consultancy, pure ‘white label’ content creation, bespoke research projects and other customised initiatives.

In a marked departure from the long-standing ‘church/state’ boundary between editorial and commercial employees, many of Condé’s editorial staff (including journalists, designers, art directors and video producers) will be involved in the creative campaigns although to what extent it is not known. 

Jamie Jouning, Chief Revenue Officer at Condé Nast International comments, “We have established an unparalleled international network of creative talent, delivering best in class creative solutions to our clients across multiple brands and multiple platforms. Ultimately, we are streamlining and simplifying our core commercial service, providing consistency and clarity to our advertising partners.”

Condé Nast isn’t the first publisher to have spotted the potential in taking business away from traditional ad agencies in a clear bid to establish a new, lucrative revenue stream. Bloomberg Media has its own marketing and media consultancy whilst earlier this year, former Havas-exec, Dominique Delport, revealed to The Drum that he is competing for marketers’ ad budgets through the Virtue agency at Vice.

That’s not to say that publishers are immune to the internal creative divisions, feuds and politics that plague so many ad agency groups. In early November, Condé Nast unveiled CNX, the new name for their re-launched in-house branding agency, 23 Stories. Yet only this week, Business of Fashion reports that Dirk Standen, editor-in-chief of CNX, is leaving. The exit comes mere months after the agency’s former head, Josh Stinchcomb, left the publisher for Dow Jones. 

Download WNIP’s new Media Moments 2018 report, which dives deeper into this year’s developments in publishing, and looks at what opportunities 2019 could usher in. The report is free and can be downloaded here.