Condé Nast Pitches Diversity to Advertisers at NewFronts

Executives reveal new programming and ad offerings

Screenshot of Roger Lynch
Global CEO Roger Lynch discussed the diversity issues Condé Nast faces.
Condé Nast

Publishing giant Condé Nast is committed to championing more diverse voices, executives told potential advertisers today at the company’s virtual NewFronts presentation.

The event comes two weeks after charges of racist and biased behavior toward former and current employees who were outspoken on social media.

“As society is changing, Condé Nast is changing,” said global CEO Roger Lynch in a rare live address at the beginning of the presentation, part of a series underway this week.

The publisher also spoke about new opportunities for advertisers, including a podcast network and shoppable ads as well as new partnerships with Nielsen and the National Basketball Players Association.

"We need to listen, learn and take quick action to be a positive force in the industry."
Global CEO Roger Lynch

Recent controversy

Two prominent stars of the international company’s typical annual NewFronts presentation—food brand Bon Appétit and the work of Condé Nast Entertainment (CNE)—have come under scrutiny amid a national movement for racial equality.

The movement “led us to hold a mirror up to ourselves,” Lynch said, and announced that the company is working with an outside counsel to be a “better company” and better prioritize diversity and inclusion.

“We need to listen, learn and take quick action to be a positive force in the industry,” Lynch said.

BA’s editor Adam Rapoport resigned two weeks ago after current and former staffers shared their experiences of unfair working conditions against BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and a picture of Rapoport in brownface circulated online. Days later, Condé’s vp of video, Matt Duckor, departed after racist social media posts and reports surfaced that he didn’t prioritize diversity. The chief of CNE, Oren Katzeff, has also been called out in recent days over old tweets. Katzeff did not appear in today’s mostly prerecorded presentation.

The internal unrest Condé Nast and other major publishers could play into how these coveted advertisers spend in the coming year. In a statement to Adweek late last week, BA said the controversy hasn’t had “a significant impact on our business.”

Ahead of the event, Pamela Drucker Mann, global chief revenue officer and president of U.S. revenue, told Adweek that the company was committed to answering any questions advertisers had surrounding BA. “We’re very proud of the content we produce and we need to be 100% as proud of how we get it there,” Drucker Mann said.

The issue was addressed throughout the presentation itself, including by Reggie Williams, svp of programming, who seemed to replace Katzeff in the presentation. He joined Condé Nast last year, he said, as a Black man with eyes “wide open” about “what our brands have represented over the years, both the good and the bad.”

He said he wanted to address “the elephant … in the kitchen” and the problems at BA and tried to reassure potential partners that the company was committed “to providing a platform for new voices, diverse content and inclusive programming.”

BA, especially its test kitchen, is often acknowledged by the company—and has been awarded, including in this year’s Adweek Creative 100—for its ability to draw in new consumers over digital platforms, including through its YouTube channel.

In the past year, CNE has also made bigger commitments to sports programming, centered around a GQ Sports YouTube channel. The publisher has seen increased interest in its coverage, especially as live sports were put on hold because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Drucker Mann said.

That’s expected to expand even further under a new partnership with the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), the union for players in the NBA, to produce content. With the NBPA, the two will create programming and digital shows for a streaming service.

Original programming

At its 2019 NewFronts presentation, Condé Nast promised a rapid expansion of video offerings, dubbing the company the “new primetime” over linear TV. The company will continue to invest in this original programming with 150 new pilots this year. The Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t impacted schedules for filming those shows, especially those that feature unscripted content.

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