Thrillist Media Group Is the Latest Media Company to Launch an In-House Agency

The CoLab will cook up branded content for millennial males

Want to get through to the hard-to-reach millennial male? Thrillist Media Group thinks it knows the formula. The digital publisher announced the creation of The CoLab, its own in-house agency that will work with brands to create native activations and content.

"We wanted to have one cohesive group that distills best practices to the different areas of the business," Thrillist Media Group vp Paul Josephsen explained. "What we found from our advertising clients is that by sharing understanding around our market reach, what we know about frequency needs and the impact of media exposure, we can create a positive experience for brand partners."

Thrillist Media Group—whose publications include Thrillist, Supercompressor and Jack Threads—reach more than 15 million readers a month globally. The company says it has created a $100 million commerce business by finding products that will resonate with its mostly male millennial audience and crafting editorial that will highlight those products without nagging its readers. Its move to create an in-house agency echoes a growing trend in the industry: More digital media companies are opening up internal shops to handle the demand for branded content. 

To be fair, Josephsen admits that the company has already been doing this work for its clients on a case-by-case basis. But after more than 10 years in the industry, it feels that it has developed a "science" on how a native campaign resonates with its readers and wants to open up the process to more partners. In 2014, about 85 percent of Thrillist's branded content did better than average (for the category the pieces were posted in) when it came to generating purchase intent. The content created by The CoLab will either live on Thrillist Media Group properties or be associated with Thrillist Media Group-branded events. 

Clients who are signed up to The CoLab include Tequila Herradura, which has done several activations with Thrillist Media Group in the past. Over the past two years, the liquor brand has activated experiential marketing during Thrillist's Cinco de Mayo Taco Takedown, participated in Art Basel program events with the publisher, and sponsored branded content in a section called The Art of Tequila. Brett Jeffreys, director of digital marketing for Brown-Forman (which owns Tequila Herradura), said it was interested in working with Thrillist because it felt that tequila was in need of a re-branding to position it as a premium alcohol to male millennials, most of whom were switching over to whiskeys. It trusted that Thrillist would have the right tone and messaging to get that point across.

"Our editors and creators are thinking with key performance indicators in mind, not just thinking about page views and impressions," Josephsen said. "We have research teams that are thinking about page views and impressions. All these things are driving the creative process."