The Foundry, Time Inc.’s content studio, was launched in August 2015 and boasts a creative team of more than 150 editors, writers, designers, producers, and developers. The team works within four broad areas: branded and native content, content marketing, social content distribution, and ad products.
Rather than being co-located with the rest of Time Inc. at its 225 Liberty St. headquarters, The Foundry is based in Brooklyn’s “Industry City” which is the Sunset Park neighborhood. As a creative lab and content studio, The Foundry aims to tap into a decades-long legacy of Time Inc. storytelling and editorial expertise to help marketers engage with their target customers in new and innovative ways.
At Time Inc., branded content was being addressed on a basic level, but about a year and a half ago a structure was set up to formalize offerings. The Foundry works on multi-title campaigns and aims to create content in the voice of Time Inc.’s advertisers. What’s unique about The Foundry is that advertisers can hit every audience segment within the Time Inc.’s diverse portfolio.
“We want to make sure that we have the best solutions for our marketing partners,” said Chris Hercik, SVP, creative + content, The Foundry @ Time Inc. Hercik said category experts focus on all segments including auto, travel, fashion, consumer package goods, to name a few. With an unduplicated U.S. audience of 159 million monthly unique visitors, he said the Time Inc. portfolio has a large audience across every passion point. In addition, Time Inc. has some 220 million social followers of its brands.
Put it another way: Time Inc. reaches two in three Americans and hits more than half of the millennial demographic. Hercik said Time.com has a large millennial audience, citing The Drive, Extra Crispy, Motto, xoJane, and HelloGiggles as millennial-driven properties.
Hercik oversees creative and content. Other key partners are Matt Bean, SVP, editorial innovation, and Edouard Portelette, SVP, general manager. All three men report to Jen Wong, president, Time Inc. Digital, who oversees The Foundry.Wong. They work closely with the editorial teams at Time Inc. to develop branded content.
Hercik said Time Inc.’s recent acquisition of Viant will eventually help The Foundry tap into real-time data and insights to support the branded content the teams are creating. The Foundry is just beginning to integrate Viant's capabilities.
The Foundry offers three different services. It’s the agency of record for content on properties including MyFord.com, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, and California Tourism. It’s spearheading new brands like the The Drive and Extra Crispy. And, of course, it’s a content marketing studio.
For example, for a Land Rover campaign, The Foundry created all content on the Land Rover site, and the traffic generated through Time Inc’s ecosystem went directly to LandRover.com.
In terms of social content distribution and ad products, developers are building long-form ad units. An in-house studio produces video. One of the biggest growth areas for The Foundry is around food. Time Inc. has 27 test kitchens in Birmingham, Ala. Food & Wine's test kitchen is based in New York.
Hercik said clients are coming to The Foundry because they want authentic storytelling and scale: “Brands want to work with large publishers to reach massive audiences in a single deal.”
While The Foundry also implements custom media plans for bespoke native programs, programmatic media buying is definitely part of its equation given the size of Time Inc.’s audience. When one of the Time Inc. brands ties in with a partner, “we see engagement increase four to six times because we know that audience,” Hercik said.
“Viant gives us real-time data to be able to create content. We can see different audiences and segments which helps us target. It’s an ongoing endeavor. Viant is another tool we’ll be able to use. It’s up to us to figure out what the relationship is farther down the road,” Hercik said.
In client engagements, The Foundry uses its real-time social dashboard and layers on nearly 50 APIs to identify Google search terms, trends, and influencer data. Then it layers on its own tools to see trending content across Time Inc.’s properties. “We calibrate the tool according to the brand’s objectives, so we can see brand sentiment and real-time trends about what people are saying. We are creating branded content in real-time. Plus, we’re doing social listening. We believe in being always-on, we're always having a dialogue with readers, so we create content the same way for our marketing partners,” Hercik said.
Time Inc. has the ability to analyze social channels including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and see what’s being discussed around influencer posts in real time not just on its own properties, but for the entire social universe.
When The Foundry works directly with clients, it provides them with real-time information. Marketers also have access to the editorial teams to ask questions. In addition, Time Inc. holds about 250 events and those offer experiential marketing insights. “We can work more closely with our partners instead of merely responding to an RFP. We’re offering full-service production and influencer programs right out of the gate,” Hercik said.
The Foundry works with clients across categories given the depth and breadth of Time Inc.'s portfolio. Hercik cites a campaign for Volvo that launched in July. Volvo partnered with TheDrive.com, which created native content about setting records with the S90. The team created more than 30 branded content pieces—social posts, videos, etc.—that Volvo would own.
The Foundry produced a long-form custom content piece for client Emirates called “Destination Dubai” that lived on Food & Wine, Departures, and Travel + Leisure from February through March. It included video, print, social, and mobile components. The Foundry said the content saw 4x the number of page views than the Time Inc. average, and there was an 85% higher engagement rate than the Time Inc. average. The goal of the campaign was to raise awareness of Dubai as a destination and as a gateway to Emirates' global network, with a focus on golf and food.
With Lexus, The Foundry created a campaign that ran from Dec. 4, 2015 through Jan. 15, 2016, was dubbed “Sports Thrillustrated” and racked up more than 5 million video views across all Sports Illustrated and Lexus channels. It started as a branded campaign with Sports Illustrated and Lexus, then was so well-received that Lexus acquired the rights for national broadcast. Lexus wanted to create video content that showcased the capabilities and style of its performance line of vehicles within Sports Illustrated's brand identity. The content showed soccer star Clint Dempsey attempting trick shots with the Lexus vehicles. He worked closely with the brand to build assets that would live on SI.com and on social platforms.
And with Walgreens, The Foundry crafted “Feeling Beautiful,” which kicked off Feb. 7 and is slated to run through Aug. 31. The average time spent on native pages for that campaign is two times standard Time Inc. benchmarks and the expansion rate of native ad units is three times the Time Inc. benchmarks. On social channels, the campaigns’ native content has seen a 132% higher engagement rate and 114% higher click-through rate.