Condé Nast’s New In-House Native Ad Studio Debuts Its First Campaign

Samsung-branded cover to go out to Bon Appétit subscribers

Six months after its buzzy launch, Condé Nast's in-house native ad unit, 23 Stories, which allows advertisers to work directly with the publishing company's editors, is finally unveiling its first campaign: a Bon Appétit cover sponsored by Samsung.

The front of the four-page cover unit, Bon Appétit's first-ever sponsored cover and the second for Condé Nast (Teen Vogue ran a Tresemmé-branded cover in April), resembles a Samsung refrigerator that can be "opened" to display a fully stocked fridge with food-storage and cooking tips, courtesy of Bon Appétit's editors. On the following page, there's advice on how to buy the season's best tomatoes, just like the ones featured on the issue's main cover. The ad will only appear on subscriber covers.

Although Samsung is an existing sponsor of Bon Appétit's Cook Like a Pro online-video and recipe series, there's no specific digital component to its cover campaign.

"When we set about to create 23 Stories, we said we would work across the entire asset stack, and that obviously includes print, as well," said Condé Nast CMO Edward Menicheschi, who added that the group's upcoming projects will be largely focused on video and digital.

So far, 23 Stories has signed eight clients since it was created in January with the goal of giving advertisers direct access to the company's magazine editors rather than bringing in outside editors to work specifically on branded content. While the breakdown of the ad-edit divide marked a major step for Condé Nast, it's becoming an increasingly common move in the magazine industry, with companies like Hearst and Time Inc. having already created similar branded content divisions.

Also becoming more common are sponsored covers, once considered ethically verboten under ASME's native ad guidelines, which included statements like "Don't Print Ads on Covers" and "Don't Ask Editors to Write Ads." Still, titles including Marie Claire, Time and Forbes all experimented with various forms of cover ads over the past year, and just a few months ago, ASME officially updated its guidelines to loosen restrictions on native ads.

According to Menicheschi, there's been "zero backlash" from readers about Condé's early forays into sponsored covers.

"I think consumers are smart. They get what the messaging is about," he said—at least, he added, as long as that messaging meets Condé Nast's visual standards. "What's more unforgivable is something that doesn't look particularly good. … If something was really unattractive, I might hear about that."