‘You have to sell advertisers what they need, not what you want’: Q&A with Conde Nast chief revenue officer, Pamela Drucker Mann

Condé Nast is heading into 2019 ready for change. This past fall, the legacy magazine publisher unveiled a five-year modernization plan focused on diversifying revenue, then saw the person who delivered that plan to its board of directors, Bob Sauerberg, step down as CEO. Provided it sticks to that plan’s script, Condé will lean even more into short-form video, events, audience data and creative services for its advertisers.

We spoke to Pamela Drucker Mann, Condé Nast’s chief revenue and marketing officer, to discuss Condé’s future and what it will offer to advertisers. The conversation has been condensed.

Do you think by the end of 2019 you’ll be a video-first business?
We’re a content-first company. It’s not Vogue the magazine, or Vogue the channel on YouTube. It’s Vogue. We’re investing in our content on multiple platforms. Video is an area we’re looking to grow, and it’s a really fun platform, and it’s something we’re really good at, and it’s something the consumer is interested in.

One of the things I love about Condé is we’re a multi-platform media company. To me, it’s not about being video-first, it’s about making sure we’re creating content wherever our audiences are. The difference today between where we were five years ago is we’re just moving a lot faster.

So what role does the print product play and how does it differ from everything else?
The media industry likes to talk about media in a very abstract way. But I think at the end of the day, it’s about how much time we spend with our shared interest, which is our audience and their potential consumer. We’ve found new audiences and we’ve evolved that relationship onto new platforms, like YouTube and Snap and Instagram.

I say this all the time, but we think of the world as our O&O. When you think about our reach, it goes well beyond how people used to think of how you could connect with our brands. That’s why we’re really confident and excited about what we’re doing.

It sounds like the atomic element in all of this is the relationship. Is that still the main selling point a publisher has?
I look at brands and their audiences like people: I think they can grow. I think The New Yorker and their audience got close this year. There were a lot of things The New Yorker brought to the world that I think really changed that relationship and that need state.

I don’t think it’s how it’s always been. I think it deepens as things change. Editors have brought different flavors to our brands. I do think that consumers and audiences are raising their hands to say they’re sick of content for content’s sake. They don’t just want virality. I do think that’s a shift in the consumer of the past two years, and that’s been good for us. I do think not all content is created equal.

Do you think your brands have the right amount of focus on consumer revenue? You now have chief business officers looking after categories, but they also have to think about consumer revenue at the individual titles.
I don’t know if this is the answer you want, but what we did wasn’t about the consumer piece. To run a media company, you have to sell [advertisers] what they need, not what you want them to have. We wanted [our chief business officers] to run categories on behalf of the company. They’re meant to be these leaders as pertains to these categories and think about them through different lenses.

At the end of the day, our clients were asking for that. They want to talk to one person about their partnership, not ten. They have category responsibility, and brand management responsibility. That piece always existed, and they’ll continue to manage it.

Condé has always been great when it comes to helping fashion and luxury advertisers drive consideration and lift. But you see more brands getting more focused on performance. Do you think there’ll be more of that?
There’s a saying that you can’t retarget your way to success. Historically, we were known for the top of the funnel. Magazines, by their nature, are more top-of-funnel-type products.

The bottom of the funnel piece is interesting because a lot of people have different explanations for what it means. We’ve really evolved in bringing opportunities to the table to access both pieces that allow them to do what they need to do.

Do you think attribution and measurement are going to continue evolving rapidly this year?
We have been in the market for years saying we matter, and our clients bought into that promise that our brands help them mean something. This is the first time we can prove it. We’ve got products and capabilities that show we put our money where our mouth is.

Measurement’s going to continue to matter because I don’t know an advertiser that wouldn’t want to see where their money is going.

What’s going to change is where they’re investing their money. I don’t think it’s going to be as black and white as it’s been. They’re going to be forced to go where they see better results. It’s a really noisy world out there. Consumers, as much as they’re leaning in, they’re leaning out. That is a big issue that I know Gen-Z and millennial are sick of ads.

These are places where they’re leaning in and raising their hands. That’s where advertisers need to be putting their money.


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