KO staffs up as its mission to rebuild Elle Canada takes shape

With a handful of new sales and editorial hires, the magazine brand's new parent company envisions far more custom content in its future.

Elle Canada and Elle Quebec are currently in the midst of their production cycles, sending to the printers their first issues since its license was acquired by Montreal-based KO Média.

It’s been a whirlwind of a month, says Sophie Banford, editor and GM of KO Média. Learning how Elle Canada and its Quebec counterpart operate has been the first task; now Banford says the goal is bringing that in line with how KO Média wants it to operate going forward, while still staying within the guidelines set by the global Elle brand.

All that has been set in motion while working with a shoestring staff. Banford tells MiC there were only three full-time employees for Elle Canada when it became the owner, the aftermath of a swath of layoffs by former parent company TVA. This week, KO hired on a number of new staffers on the editorial, creative and sales side.

Longtime editor-in-chief Vanessa Craft and art director Jed Tallo will remain in their positions, while new editorial staffers Carli Whitwell (managing editor) and Victoria DiPlacido (beauty director) have joined the team. KO is also looking for a digital editor, which Banford says is something the brand needs to focus on.

“Vanessa is great in the editor-in-chief position because she has a vision, knows fashion and cares about making the brand relevant… but the main purpose of what we’re doing is to reach our readers. And we need to look beyond print. Before, no one was really dedicated to taking care of the digital side of the brand. You need a specialist.”

It’s also created a new position; Annie Horth will work as creative director for both Elle Quebec and Elle Canada. Horth, a creative and fashion consultant, has a storied background in advertising and fashion, having led several major ad campaigns and working with celebrities including Céline Dion. Besides leading the fashion section, Horth will oversee the visual appearance of the brands.

Although Horth is based in Montreal, her globetrotting background is something Banford says the brand needs in order to be elevated. “Canada is such an international place, so there’s no reason we cannot position it as such. Our competitors are all over – Elle U.S., Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue. We have to be at the same level as those magazines, even if it’s with Canadian and Quebec content. The quality has to be on that world-class level.”

Horth isn’t the only person who will work across the two brands; Banford says Elle Canada and Elle Quebec will likely engage in slightly more content sharing than previously (with content coming from full-time staff as well as freelancers).

And that content may  be a lot more brand-filled in the future. Banford says KO, which operates women’s brands such as Véro, di Stasio, Édition Papier and K pour Katrine, is “very close to brands” and collaborates constantly with advertisers. “In 2019, it’s just the way we work in the industry. It’s part of the job now.”

She says Elle Canada and Elle Quebec have a typical balance of 60 to 65% editorial content versus advertisements in their print edition. She envisions a future where there are fewer print advertisements, but more content that is custom and branded. “As long as we are transparent with readers and as long as there is some end benefit for the readers, ultimately, the result is more content for the readers.”

On the sales side, KO has appointed Samuel-Olivier Barrette as senior director of ad sales and content solutions. Former Rogers and TC Media sales director Kym Wyatt has joined the team to manage national accounts. Karine Marquis (formerly of Quebecor and Rogers Media) joins as manager of content and marketing solutions, and former Sid Lee staffer Laurence Bouchard has joined as multiplatform project manager.

KO has also staffed up Elle Quebec including new editor-in-chief Joanie Pietracupa and art director Nancy Paven and new associate editor Véronique Alarie. Longtime staffer Laurie Dupont will become content manager for culture and society, while Cynthia Quellet will stay on as digital content manager. Théo Dupuis-Carbonneau joins as content manager for beauty, and Sophie St-Laurent, formerly of KO brand Véro Magazine, will join as content manager for fashion and beauty.

Banford says KO is also looking at revamping some of the digital and print editorial sections and it is in the process of evaluating, although with it still being early days, she’s not ready to reveal anything yet. “I can promise that there will be changes, although we have to abide by the international guidelines, we know things will be different.”