Vox Media moves into experiential marketing

vanessa fontanez vox media
Vanessa Fontanez

Vox Media, which sees itself as the quintessential modern publisher, has decided it needs to bring its digital brands into the real world as well.

The publisher has hired Vanessa Fontanez as its first executive director of experiential marketing to extend its eight online verticals, including Vox.com, The Verge and Curbed, to events. Fontanez has worked on a number of big-name consumer events including GQ’s Men of the Year Awards, Billboard Music Awards and the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, and it was that experience that factored into her hire at Vox. She will be part of Vox Creative, the company’s in-house creative and brand marketing unit, and will report to Lindsay Nelson, global head of brand strategy.

The hire is another sign that media companies recognize they can’t live on advertising revenue alone. Events are a popular way to generate revenue because they can help bring a publication to life for consumers whose only experience with it is online and give advertisers another platform to buy, one where they can directly interact with consumers. Vox has conferences through its acquisition of Recode last year, and it’s begun creating consumer events for advertisers.

This past fall, Vox’s Eater worked with Infiniti and the Museum of Food and Drink to create an exhibition space, as seen in the main image, where attendees got first-person culinary tours from the seat of an Infiniti. “It was the first virtual reality experience inside a car,” Nelson said. “That’s something you can’t do on a screen.”

vox infiniti event
VR in a car: Vox’s Infiniti event

The decision to move into experiential marketing also is a recognition that building brands exclusively online is hard; even e-commerce companies like Warby Parker and Amazon have extended their brands to brick and mortar stores. It’s all the harder for newer digital publications, since people are increasingly likely to come across editorial content in their social news feeds and may rarely if ever go to the site that it originated from, where the publication has full control over the branding experience.

Not every digital media brand has the authority to get people to come to an event, but Vox thinks that it’s reached the point with its brands that it can command real-life audiences, as in the case of the Eater event, for example.

“I think what we realized is, an important part of storytelling happens in real life,” Nelson said. “Building brands exclusively online is challenging. We have touch points for things that are physical. It’s easier to build an emotional connection.”

Image courtesy of Vox Media.

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