WPP gets the taste for Vice as it buys into trendsetter media business

WPP is joining former MTV and Viacom boss Tom Freston and media specialist bank Raine in a new round of investment for hipster magazine and online brand Vice, founded as a punk magazine in Toronto in 1994.

Vice is distributed free in selected trendy stores and now claims to reach a million plus readers in more than 30 countries. It also runs a number of online channels and events and says it plans to use the new funds, reportedly $30m plus, to expand into Brazil, China, India and South Korea.

Vice co-founder Shane Smith says that the new funds will create an “unholy alliance that will ensure no other media company will ever stand a chance against Vice’s relentless onslaught.”

Rather more modestly WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell says: “WPP is investing in Vice to further develop our content capabilities, particularly in new media and amongst the youth consumer segments. Vice has been extremely successful in developing and repositioning major brands in these areas.”

Sorrell is also believe to keen to cosy up to Freston and Ari Emanuel’s William Morris Endeavor Entertainment talent agency which says it has a strategic partnership with Vice.

WPP has been here before, investing in Wired magazine’s Hotwired online offering way back in 1998. But it is serious about content these days, expanding its MediaCom Beyond Advertising sub-brand into various countries under the leadership of newly-appointed boss James Morris.

It will be interesting to see how it rubs along with the excitable Shane Smith.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.