VICE to #NewFronts2017: We’re Not Here For Your Fake Brand Messaging

On Friday afternoon, I went to the VICE event at Tribeca’s Spring Studios expecting to see yet another presentation during the 2017 Digital Content NewFronts. What I witnessed instead was the Bronx’s very own Desus Nice and The Kid Mero, aka the Bodega Boys, give attendees their takes on politics, sports, entertainment, and other subjects they don’t really know about. Desus & Mero, who normally bring their thoughts on current events to TV on VICELAND’s first daily, late-night show, basically told media buyers, “Buy ads on our show because Mero has mad kids and Desus loves sneakers and we’re funny and the other late night shows are corny AF.” That was followed by chef Eddie Huang, who hosts Huang’s World on VICELAND, boxing Vice’s Niall Cooney in a three-round state-sanctioned match. The entire spectacle was live-streamed on Facebook.

VICE Fans: More Likely to Follow News

Later, I realized that I had seen a PowerPoint presentation at the VICE event. Except it hadn’t been on a screen behind Shane Smith, the CEO of VICE Media, who didn’t appear – in person – at his millennial media company’s party. (We did get to see a video of him speaking from an undisclosed location talking about his plans to expand VICE to 80 countries this year.) Instead, the presentation had been projected on the side wall before the “presentations” began. Here is one of the key messages that I captured on my smartphone without realizing that this was the PowerPoint presentation that I was waiting to see: “VICE fans are sick of your fake ass messaging. 67% said authenticity is important when buying a brand.” Then, I checked on Twitter and found other attendees had caught several of the other key messages. This included:

2017: New Shows on VICELAND

Later in the evening VICE did announce some news. VICELAND is adding three new shows to its lineup:

Ok, I admit it, I blew my assignment. In my defense, the invitation did say the “presentation” was at 3:45 p.m., so I didn’t think I’d miss anything by skipping the “after party.” And before I bailed, I read a tweet from Todd Spangler @expangler, the New York Digital editor at Variety, who observed, “Seems like @vice decided to forgo any real news, this is more of an update & party #NewFronts2017.”

Fortunately, Sami Main of Adweek seems to have been briefed ahead of time about one of the trends in the digital video marketing business that this Baby Boomer missed. Guy Slattery, president of VICELAND, told Main that more and more of VICELAND’s target demographic, which is young, affluent, and well-educated, are dodging ads both online and on TV. In order to keep that audience around during ad breaks, VICELAND is using contextual interstitials to create custom native content for TV.

In fact, new research by Nielsen and VICE found that four series (F*ck That’s Delicious, Noisey, Hate Thy Neighbor, and Bong Appetit) have a higher audience retention rate through ad breaks than most major programming from VICELAND’s competitors. For example, watch “This Is Not An Ad | HUANG’S WORLD.”

Oh, and Spangler, who hung around the party until more news was “leaked,” reported in Variety that VICE plans to bring its digital channels – including VICE News, Motherboard, and Noisey – to Amazon’s Twitch live-streaming platform. (Hey, do you think his earlier tweet was just a prank to get me to leave the event so he could get a scoop?)

In any event, here’s the strategic insight that I came away with following the VICE event: Some brands are more interested in hooking up with VICELAND’s target demographic than in losing sleep over brand safety. Hey, if the stars on VICELAND’s shows use all seven of the dirty words than George Carlin said you can never say on television, then you’ve got to realize that times have changed.

Now, this Baby Boomer isn’t that target demographic, but all three of my kids are. And as a parent, all I can really hope for was contained in the message in one of the other PowerPoint slides that was projected on the side wall at VICE’s event. It read, “VICE fans bring home the bacon. 2 out of 3 are the primary grocery shopper for their household.”

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