Samsung’s Condé Nast Buy Taps Magazines’ Web Staffs

Condé Nast is diving into reverse publishing, courtesy of Samsung. The electronics giant is taking out a six-page insert that will run across six of the publishing house’s titles and their associated Web sites over eight months.

But in an unusual twist that may have helped sidestep some editorial controversy, the ads are wrapped around editorial content that was created specifically for the section by dot-com editorial staffers.

Consumer titles run articles or sections with advertiser-friendly themes all the time, to varying degrees. But as advertisers look to run their ads in environments that are contextually relevant, and as magazines become more willing to accomodate advertisers’ requests, creating customized editorial content for the purpose of being wrapped by advertising has grown in popularity.

Advertisers like advertorials when they contain original edit because they can direct the theme if not the actual content, ensuring it’s relevant to their message. Meanwhile, the publication technically is abiding by American Society of Magazine Editors rules because it has the final say over the edit content. Condé Nast has run inserts with customized edit, but never across this many titles. Some insiders saw the involvement of the dot-com staff as a way for the company to avoid ruffling the feathers of print editors, who are seen as more sensitive than their Web counterparts to being asked to serve up content on a directive from the advertiser. (That’s particularly true at Condé Nast, with its reputation for scrupulously safeguarding its editorial integrity.) They point to the example of a few years ago, when Microsoft wanted to run ads that were surrounded by content with a future-related theme. The content was produced by the magazines’ Web editorial staff, and labeled as such.

Lou Cona, evp, Condé Nast Media Group, said the edit side had independence in creating the content for the Samsung insert. (Editors also could decline the insert altogether.)


“It’s a reverse-publishing idea,” he said of the Web-to-print concept. “We gave dot-com editors the opportunity to have a robust conversation with their readers. Those that were interested ran with it.” Cona said despite the recession, demand for buys that involving multiple platforms and titles have only grown. Year to date, he said, the Media Group has sold more integrated deals (21) than it did for all of ’09 (13), though he wouldn’t release dollar figures.

In the Samsung case, the theme of the edit content aligns with the advertiser’s message, “Most Wanted.” The Web editors asked online readers what they were most interested in, then used the answers to create editorial content tailored to the individual magazine. Architectural  Digest, for example, used the space to respond to readers’ decorating questions. In at least two cases, the insert is titled “Inspired by You,” although editors were free to use any heading they chose, a Media Group rep said. The editorial was interspersed with fractional ads (which are labeled as such) for Samsung products written in the style of personals ads.

For Samsung, the insert is the first time it’s promoting multiple categories  in a single program. Condé Nast’s titles, which skew luxury/lifestyle, might not seem an obvious choice for a technology company, whose ads often are designed for the core tech consumer.

But Lily Chakrabarty, svp, director, Starcom MediaVest Group, the Publicis unit that handled the buy, said the custom insert was a way to make Samsung’s ads more appealing to readers who do “not necessarily want to look at specs.”