Appearing at Fast Company’s Innovation Festival in New York on Tuesday, Dubuc delivered her first public comments on the $400 million Refinery merger since it closed the day before. “These two audiences match. Revenue diversity coming together works,” she said. “This is an acquisition not just for scale. These two brands come together and complement each other.”
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The companies’ storytelling approach also has shared attitude and DNA, Dubuc said, even down to certain executives (she mentioned Refinery’s Amy Emmerich) having worked at both companies. On the advertising side, she said the unified brand teams have already gone on three new-business pitch meetings since the deal’s close.
Significant restructuring and layoffs are starting to enter the rear-view mirror, Dubuc said. Asked if the company’s former culture of fiefdoms and sprawl led to missed opportunities, she said, “I don’t think there were missed revenue opportunities. Everybody was sort of chasing revenue. There were probably missed cost opportunities. Some of the controls and the synergies.” Profitability in 2020, a goal she has stated publicly several times, remains in the forecast.
Asked if she would describe Vice as “the biggest of the scrappy” media companies or the “scrappiest of the big,” Dubuc chuckled and picked the former.
Even after spending 18 months as CEO of Vice, though, Dubuc said she continues to be struck by the consistency of the “bro culture” label attached to Vice. Revelations in late 2017 of multiple instances of sexual harassment and improper conduct had occurred followed earlier accounts of the company’s free-wheeling culture. Co-founder and CEO Shane Smith stepped down in early 2018, handing the baton to Dubuc.
Founded in Montreal as a male-skewing pop culture magazine, Vice has evolved into a company valued at several billion dollars and with mainstream media companies as stakeholders. A+E Networks, where Dubuc’s long tenure ended with a stint as CEO, owns a sizable chunk of Vice and also operates the Viceland cable network, which it rebranded from H2.
Another widespread misunderstanding, Dubuc added, concerns Vice’s business model. Unlike a lot of other companies with significant digital holdings, she said, just one-third of Vice’s total revenue derives from advertising-dependent sources. She said that profile shields the company from the “duopoly” of Facebook and Google, which account for more than 80% of all online ad spending.