Vice Media’s Branded Content Partnership Success

“You have to partner with brands. … When I say partner with brands, I mean partner. We make it together. We exploit it together. And that could be a TV show. It could be short form. It could be long form. It could be a film.”

That’s Shane Smith, CEO of Vice Media, speaking on a panel hosted by the Wall Street Journal at the Cannes Lions advertising festival. Smith elaborated on the success of branded content produced by the multi-billion-dollar company and its partners.

Vice Media hits the ideal audience for advertisers — the millennial male demographic. People who fit into that demographic are savvy about branded content and ad placement because they’ve been marketed to since they were kids, Smith explains. That level of awareness requires being forthright in the production, while also catering to the interest of that audience.

branded content, shane smith, cannes lionsThe example Smith provides is producing content about climbing a mountain, and partnering with the brand NorthFace. The partnership doesn’t involve a cheesy plug for the brand, but connects the mission and vision of NorthFace, the personality of its customers and usefulness of NorthFace gear to support the bigger story of climbing the mountain.

Humanizing the experience through storytelling and connecting that human experience with a brand that embodies that lifestyle is a stronger way of producing branded content than airing commercials around the content or presenting a “brought to you by” message at the beginning or end of the content.

“People will watch it because it becomes it becomes layered into the thing,” Smith said. Watch the full video here.


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