Page to Stage: Condé Nast’s Nicole DeLaRosa on the Limitlessness of Branded Content
As the VP of Production and Activation at Condé Nast, Nicole DeLaRosa is seated at the nerve center of some of the publisher’s most exciting forays into experiential and partner content. Projects like Vogue World and much of the highly produced video work that comes from Condé Nast rely on advertiser partnerships. This is DeLaRosa’s domain.
Last month during New York Fashion Week, Vogue took over 13th Street in the meatpacking district for a street festival, runway show, concert, and parade, all wrapped in high fashion and titled Vogue World. At the same time, some were questioning the relevance of fashion shows during a prolonged global pandemic, Vogue offered a joyous riposte in the form of shimmering supermodels, Lil Nas X, a triumphant Serena Williams, Howard University dancers, and designer-branded food trucks dishing out Ralph Lauren soft-serve and Michael Kors pastrami on rye sandwiches.
“If I had to describe it I’d say it was really bringing the pages of Vogue to life,” says Nicole DeLaRosa, Condé Nast’s VP of Production and Activation. “It was just a really beautiful, authentic display of what Vogue is all about, what we stand for, what our energy is.”
Vogue has previously met premature declarations of its demise. Early in the age of Instagram, some tried to dismiss the magazine's continued influence, assuming a legacy publication couldn’t contend with the endless barrage of free influencer content. Yet Vogue and other Condé Nast titles continue to wield immense cultural influence. This is in no small part because their publications have deviated from the page.
DeLaRosa is seated directly at the nerve center of some of the publisher’s most exciting forays into experiential and partner content. Projects like Vogue World and much of the highly produced video work that comes from Condé Nast relies on advertiser partnerships. This is DeLaRosa’s domain. Her production team works in lockstep with some of the world’s most revered luxury, fashion, beauty, and health companies to create advertising opportunities (like this one with Lenny Kravitz for Saint Laurent) that sit next to Condé Nast’s most elevated editorial work, or front row at events like the one on 13th Street.
“What my team is really amazing at is finding that balance between keeping our editorial integrity, which is really important to us at Condé Nast,” says DeLa Rosa, “while also finding a way to meet our advertisers’ objectives and KPIs, and delivering high quality production value and content for our partners.”
Although beautiful branded content is a top priority and draw, most advertisers arrive at DeLaRosa’s desk because they have specific business objectives to meet. That’s part of the branded content package at Condé Nast as well.
“There’s always a media plan. We’ve gotten really good at targeting [audiences] so that the content has higher engagement and is resonating, so we have higher view rates. There’s also always contextual targeting as well.” DeLaRosa explains that a project while, say, made for GQ may also appear in Architectural Digest or the New Yorker if there’s crossover appeal. “We’re lucky to have our first party data to really help us lean into who our best consumers are for whatever the content is about," she explains about how their content is planned and promoted. Of course that’s the lure of working with a content house that publishes some of the world’s most read and loved periodicals and websites. The data that Condé Nast can access on even non-subscribers or casual readers of their properties is extremely valuable.
"What my team is really amazing at is finding that balance between keeping our editorial integrity, which is really important to us at Condé Nast, while also finding a way to meet our advertisers’ objectives and KPIs."
“The beauty of us creating content for them is that we’re able to leverage our audiences to help promote that content and share it with the people who are fans of our brands, which then helps the advertiser amplify their story even more,” DeLaRosa says.
One thing that doesn’t seem to be holding back DeLaRosa and her team is the perception of branded content. Whereas consumers may have initially viewed it as lesser than the true editorial offerings of a publication, now paid-for content is common to all media channels–social and traditional–and as engaged with when well executed.
“For so long the perception was, ‘Oh, this is an ad. You’re trying to trick me. I don’t want to be tricked,’” DeLaRosa says. “But that goes back to the storytelling. It’s not about tricking the consumer. We’re still posting this content on Vogue.com or on GQ.com. We want it to look and feel and sound as much like editorial content as possible because that’s where it’s living. We don’t need it to be some screaming ad–that’s not going to serve anybody.”
Beyond traditional branded content packages for the magazines and online destinations, DeLaRosa’s team is also driving influencer partnerships and, more and more, maximizing the content opportunities for partners at their blue-chip live events like the Met Gala, GQ Men of the Year, Glamour Women of the Year, Vanity Fair’s Oscars Party and Vogue’s Forces of Fashion, and now Vogue World.
“There are certain opportunities in A) the live experiences and in B) the content experiences that will continue to make Condé some of the best, most recognizable brands in the world,” DeLaRosa says. “There are opportunities that will just continue to give our consumers more of what they want inside and outside of the magazine.”
Hear more from Nicole DeLaRosa about storytelling through events in this video session of our September event, The Future of Events–Hybrid, Virtual, and Immersive.
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