Once Known for Social Media, VaynerMedia Wants to Become an ‘Attention’ Agency

Including ‘VoiceCon’ event in New York

VaynerMedia, an early adopter of video, wants to make its name in another nascent category: voice. Getty Images
Headshot of Lauren Johnson

Gary Vaynerchuk’s VaynerMedia was an early adopter of using video as a way for brands to message their wares on social. It pivoted to video prior to that phrase becoming a publisher’s SOS call. The social agency grew its reputation on helping brands navigate Facebook, Twitter and, more recently, Snapchat before the platforms became inundated with advertising. Now peering into the future, the agency wants to make its name in another nascent category: voice.

Two years ago, the agency launched VaynerSmart—the emerging tech and Internet of Things group, headed up by vice president Patrick Givens. The agency has since built Amazon Alexa skills for brands like Diageo, GE and JP Morgan Chase, and it’s currently in talks with Microsoft’s Cortana to build voice programs.

“We talk about building expertise where consumer attention is underpriced and where it’s actionable,” Givens said. “We’ve invested in building a team of developers but also strategists who are thinking about where this space is going.”

While a number of agencies have zeroed in on voice, Givens said that VaynerMedia is trying to focus on building experiences that can work for big brands, adding that the agency is a member of Amazon’s developers advisory council. Thus, the pivot to voice is underway.

VaynerMedia is JP Morgan’s “voice agency of record.” According to Givens, the “agency of record” label is meant to make the agency more “involved from an earlier stage in these processes so that we can get a holistic look at their businesses” instead of working on a project-to-project basis. Translation: It goes beyond VaynerMedia slapping a logo on a slide, and gives it an aura of credibility.

VaynerMedia also works on JPMorgan’s digital, creative and media business, and some parts of voice can move beyond advertising into departments like internal or business-to-business communications. According to a rep from JP Morgan, “voice is something we’re thinking about across our lines of business, and Vayner will have exposure to those teams in voice-related strategy and conversations.”

The agency has been slowly developing a voice-assistant perspective over the last two years and is now organizing an event on May 22 all about voice dubbed VoiceCon. The one-day conference at InterActive Corp.’s office in Manhattan will include a keynote from CEO Gary Vaynerchuk, as well as voice and audio strategy sessions led primarily by VaynerMedia execs, with a sprinkling of brands like Amazon and Diageo (both VaynerMedia clients).

One session will center around sound design and sonic branding on Amazon Alexa and Google Home, while another session will zero in on paid media and how to work ads into audio experiences. The event will set you back a cool grand—or $2,000, if you want the privilege of spending two hours inside Vayner’s podcasting studio in Long Island City.

The voice event follows up Agent2021, another one-day VaynerMedia conference in January for travel, insurance, real estate and automotive brands.

“As VaynerMedia positions ourselves more as an attention shop and less of a social or digital shop, it makes sense that this is the next space that we’re starting to spend a lot of time in,” said Kim Garcia, svp of VaynerExperience, the experiential and event arm of VaynerMedia. “We’re focused on what are the practicalities of a marketer.”

The pivot to conferences, perhaps.

@laurenjohnson lauren.johnson@adweek.com Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.