New Media's Marketing Departments Cozy Up to Advertisers

Vox,, Refinery29 Look To Differentiate Themselves

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A print ad for that appeared in The New Yorker.
A print ad for that appeared in The New Yorker.

To gin up audiences, an untraditional news publisher is leaning on a very traditional strategy: advertising., a slick-looking website that's flush with investor cash, is spending more than a million bucks across May and June to buy ads on several bigger sites, including The New York Times and Slate, as well as on NPR and in The New Yorker.

"This is a bold way to get in front of people," Aneesh Raman, Ozy's VP-marketing, said of the campaign, which the agency Division of Labor spearheaded. had just 1.2 million unique U.S. visitors on desktop and mobile devices in April, according to ComScore. (It prefers to cite traffic stats from Quantcast, which show 5 million U.S. uniques and 10.1 million global uniques for the month ending June 4.)

The Ozy ad campaign comes on the same week that a much more established new-media brand, BuzzFeed, hired veteran Pepsi exec Frank Cooper as the site's first chief marketing officer. (He'll also serve as chief creative officer.) But consumer marketing will be only a smart part of his job, according to a BuzzFeed spokeswoman. One significant part will be working with marketers and advertising executives on forming partnerships.

Other new-media brands are also deploying marketing departments to cozy up to advertisers and differentiate themselves among a crowded pack of publishers.

"We probably haven't done as good a job as we could have in telling our story to the industry," said Jonathan Hunt, Vox Media's marketing chief.

But so far, their tactics have veered away from traditional advertising in trade publications or websites.

Vox Media -- owner of eight sites including tech-news site Re/code, which it bought last week -- has hosted advertisers and social-media executives at a number of dinners since Mr. Hunt joined the company from Vice last August. A couple of weeks ago, the company held a private dinner in Washington, D.C., for 80 local advertisers and newsmakers.

"It's up to us to say what sets us apart," Mr. Hunt said.

Women's lifestyle site Refinery29 has adopted a similar, intimate approach to reaching potential advertisers, particularly during mega-size events where the marketing community gathers, like the Consumer Electronics Show and SXSW.

Refinery29 has also partnered with other challenger brands to get out its message. During New York Fashion Week, for instance, the site created a print publication that it distributed in Uber cars around the various events.

"That's one way we got offline and into the real world," said Patrick Yee, exec VP-marketing and strategy at Refinery29.

Next up, look for many of these sites to wine and dine advertisers at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity this month.

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