- Vice Media has lost four top execs at its ad agency in the past few months.
- The exits come as the venture-backed youth-focused media company is looking to its agency, Virtue Worldwide, to help it get to profitability.
- They also come at a time of unease at the company, as it tries to repair its reputation and culture after reports of mistreatment toward female employees.
- Overall, Vice has shed 10% of its staff, raised $250 million in debt, and had its value written down this year by Disney.
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Vice Media has lost four top execs at its ad agency, Virtue Worldwide, in the past few months — just as it’s counting on the agency to help it get to profitability.
- Cameron Farrelly, who was Virtue Worldwide’s chief creative officer, a role he was promoted to in January from group creative director. Six months later, he landed at Spotify as creative director. Insiders said Farrelly helped launch Virtue Worldwide and was a key figure in nearly all the deals Virtue did, including with clients Google Chrome, Lululemon, and Dove.
- Heather Pieske was group creative director at Virtue until she left after a little more than two years for a role at Vox Media, where she started in May, according to her LinkedIn page.
- RG Logan, who was head of strategy at Virtue for two years and left in May. He’s now SVP Strategy at Truth Initiative, according to his LinkedIn profile.
- Alice Kimberley, who was group strategy director at Virtue, has left as well, according to knowledgeable sources.
Outside of Virtue, there have been other notable business-side departures in recent months at Vice.
- Meghan Kirsch, who was at Vice Media for three years, most recently as SVP of marketing and creative at Vice Media, is heading to Group Nine Media’s Thrillist to be its chief content officer.
- Donna Lamar, group creative director at Vice Media, left in March to return to Twitter.
The company has also shed a number of editorial higher-ups and lost its HBO show earlier this year. It’s also brought on others, including chief digital officer Cory Haik, global news and entertainment president Jesse Angelo, and digital svp Katie Drummond.
Asked for comment about the departures, a Vice spokesperson emailed a statement that read:
“Everyone who has walked through the doors of Virtue has contributed to, in just a few short years, creating an award-winning global agency, working with today’s most powerful consumer brands. Virtue is growing at an incredible rate, having now expanded into 20 markets around the world and with 26 new clients in North America this last year alone. We’re proud of the career growth that employees find, inside and outside of Vice, and we’ll soon have announcements about new Virtue leaders joining us in the coming weeks.”
Virtue was founded in 2005 as a creative agency and is one of just a handful of publisher-owned ad agencies. In 2017, Vice Media combined it with other standalone agency-like businesses to make a full-service agency called Virtue Worldwide.
The Virtue exits come as Vice Media is putting more resources behind the agency after taking a write-down in value by Disney and laying off 10% of its staff as it strives to get to profitability.
It’s also an uneasy time for Vice Media as it’s been taking steps to repair its reputation after reports of mistreatment of women at the company, which caused some advertisers to stop spending with the company and led to the firing of the head of Vice Media’s former creative agency, Carrot Creative.
The exits also come as Vice chief executive Nancy Dubuc, who took over in March 2018, has been trying to tie the companies’ units together under a new phrase, “One Vice.” Virtue has historically operated independently, most of its work being direct with clients and not tied to Vice Media properties, and some there have felt that the separation insulated them from cultural problems at other parts of the company.
Founded in 1994 as a culture magazine, youth culture-focused Vice Media raised a reported $1.4 billion on the belief that its edgy, unconventional editorial approach would appeal to a new generation of consumers. It’s among a handful of heavily venture-funded media companies that have not achieved profitability and whose growth has slowed, leading them to pursue mergers and trim staff.
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