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ad:tech SF: How Mountain Dew leveraged a unique partnership to become a publisher

Posted by Chloe Della Costa on March 26th, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Brands are scrambling to transform themselves into respected publishers, but not all of them are succeeding. The biggest challenge is to make your brand's content a destination in itself. This is what Mountain Dew is aiming to do with Green Label. The brand recently partnered with Complex Media to launch Green-label.com.

At day one of this year's ad:tech San Francisco, Jamal Henderson, senior brand manager, Mountain Dew, PepsiCo, and Rich Antoniello, CEO of Complex Media, shared insights from their unconventional partnership.

Green Label is an online publication focused on Millennial males, Mountain Dew's target audience and one of the most challenging demographics for marketers to connect with. The content is focused on skating, art, music, style, gaming, and more, and Mountain Dew even presented a showcase at this month's SXSW:

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According to Henderson, the motivation to expand Mountain Dew's existing brand legacy to a publication stemmed from a problem: "Right now, the environment is media rich and cash poor." And Green Label's success in large part was due to its goal of operating as closely as possible to straight editorial. Antoniello highlighted the difference between push and pull marketing. "A pushed tweet does not have the same value as a pulled tweet," he said.

The goal of Green Label is to draw people in based on the high quality of the content, so the metrics are not traditional. Henderson and Antoniello measure success in terms of a stamp of approval from long standing publications (like Variety, The New York Times, and Vice), as well as users' time spent with the brand (on average, four minutes). And there are obviously added benefits to owning your own platform.

Now Mountain Dew is even selling ad space to other non-competitive brands like Converse and Hugo Boss on Green-label.com and sharing a portion of the revenue. There are many unique aspects of how this project came together and how it continues to evolve. The publication's success is highly contingent on an "always on" (and always evolving) quality versus a traditional campaign model. There was no RFP or campaign contract for Henderson and Antoniello. The pair appear to pride themselves on the flexibility and closeness of the partnership.

There was never an agency involved in the project, Henderson explained to curious attendees. Antoniello called this a brave decision, noting that ultimately, it was about prioritizing the relationship with consumers.

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