Home of the brave: are Canadian marketers ready for Vice?

The content produced out of the new Rogers-Vice deal is expected to be edgy. And media buyers say that's a good thing for advertisers.

Rogers Communications and Vice Media’s $100-million pact to produce millennial-focused content will offer Canadian advertisers much-needed premium video content to reach them.

That is, so long as brands are bold enough to use it.

Media buyers like Jungle Media’s Sheri Metcalfe and OMD’s Nick Barbuto greeted the announcement last week from Toronto-based Rogers and Brooklyn-based Vice with enthusiasm, noting Vice’s expertise in delivering content youth want to watch across multiple screens.

“If you own a lot of the connection points with consumers, you have to pay off those connection points with great content or great services,” Barbuto says.

Rogers and Vice plan to build a production studio to produce content for mobile and online, as well as a Canadian Vice TV network.

Although the companies did not reveal in-depth details on content, the production studio is expected to be under Vice’s editorial direction. Since the media co’s content is more edgy – with features like “The Englishman who thrived in Bolivia’s cocaine prison” – Metcalfe says it will require brave marketers who “truly understand their [youth] market” to associate with that content.

Will Pate, ‎VP digital strategy at M2 Universal says the partnership is certain to be followed closely by media and marketers looking to break into the youth market, in particular because there is a lack of premium content – particularly youth-focused content – in Canada.

Pate says Vice has the right content to connect with youth. However, it will need to maintain its authentic voice for the deal to be effective, Pate says.

“Vice will need to maintain its authenticity, otherwise their audience won’t just walk away, they will build their own replacement,” Pate says. “These are the new rules of the game: disrupt or get disrupted. Rogers will have to carve a space outside of the mainstream, and bring Canadian marketers there with them.
“We have the talent, we have the technology, and big budgets aren’t required anymore. What’s missing is courage,” he says.

The Vice deal is part of Rogers’ so-called “3.0 platform,” which includes a 12-year rights deal with the NHL and its upcoming SVOD service, Shomi. Last week, Bell Media also revealed its rival streaming service.

With Rogers competing in a fragmented and competitive digital landscape, where SVOD’s like Netflix are battling with traditional BDUs for marketshare, partnering with Vice gives Rogers an edge in efforts to connect with cord-never millennials, adds Nick Barbuto, managing director, Ignition Factory at agency OMD.

“In the world of binge consumption, the lack of content is a huge issue for anyone who is trying to program,” he says. “It becomes a daunting challenge when people can just binge on all this content, like Netflix. I don’t think you can go wrong by investing in content at this point.”

Image (left to right): Shane Smith, founder and head of Vice Media and Guy Laurence, CEO, Rogers Communications at the launch event.