HearstMade, the branded content arm of Hearst Digital Media, is using New York Fashion Week as a platform to expand its marketing capabilities, beginning with an influencer event co-sponsored by BCBG Max Azria.
In partnership with Elle.com, Hearst will host the “Elle.com Lounge” on Thursday, which 100 influencers are expected to attend. Set in a luxury penthouse in Tribeca, the soirée is designed to encourage social media posting and buzz to promote both Elle.com and BCBG, which is returning to the runway for the first time under new leadership. The event is also part of a larger effort by Hearst to increase event programming in the future and will serve as an experimental venture to guide collaborations in the coming months, said Brittany Hennessy, senior director of influencer strategy and talent partnerships at Hearst Magazines Digital Media.
“Hearst Digital Media is putting a lot of resources into influencers as a whole across all our platforms,” she said. “We’re looking to model this and make it available for more advertisers, so we can partner with more brands in the future. It will be the blueprint.”
The push comes after Hearst competitor Condé Nast launched 23 Stories as a standalone internal agency in October of last year, with a special focus on events. Since its debut, 23 Stories has led the production of events like the Teen Vogue Summit, which hosted guests including Hillary Clinton and actress Yara Shahidi in Los Angeles in December.
Hennessy, who oversees talent booking across the company, said the Elle.com Lounge is also part of a companywide initiative to better utilize its influencer partnerships, as demand for influencer content has increased.
“We started diving into booking more influencers for editorial content because those are the new celebrities, if you will. They perform really well when we put them in videos and photo content,” she said.
For BCBG, this NYFW will be significant in ushering in a new era for the beleaguered brand after it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in early 2017, in tandem with the departure of the founding Azria family. By June 2017, the brand had been jointly acquired by Marquee Brands and Global Brands Group, and a new executive team was brought aboard, including creative director Bernd Kroeber. Under new direction, BCBG has focused on improving the in-store experience and increasing digital efforts, paving a way for influencer marketing.
A recent post on the official BCBG Instagram account featuring Russian influencer Mary Leest
After a subdued presentation during fashion week in September (Racked described it as “far more low-key than the extravagant shows it’s thrown in the past,” held in an empty store with few models), its show on Friday is expected to be a return to its roots.
Hennessy said the NYFW event has been a serendipitous partnership with BCBG, who had been looking for a partner to help host an influencer-driven fashion event at the same time Hearst was ramping up research around influencer content.
“We figured, ‘What’s a way we can bring these people together, tie them to an advertiser in the process and reap the benefits of having all this talent in one space?’” she said.
The event will also feature certain influencers like Michelle Madsen and Sai De Siliva, who will be dressed in BCBG in exchange for incorporating the brand into social media posts during the week. Others will be able to get hair and makeup touchups and browse a portion of the BCBG collection at the venue.