Conde Nast Building in Times Square, New York City. Photo: iStock
Conde Nast Building in Times Square, New York City. Photo: iStock

Global retail giant Farfetch’s partnership with Condé Nast, arguably the world’s most popular content provider with a worldwide audience of over 340 million, has significant implications for the ongoing commercialization of media content and consumers’ ability to distinguish advertising from editorial.

In the deal announced earlier this week, Farfetch’s customers will now be able to browse and shop via Condé Nast’s editorial portfolio. This will be done on a global scale, and will almost certainly compel editors to increasingly shape content around the objective of selling a product. Condé Nast’s social media channels will also become shoppable, further accelerating a meaningful shift in editorial perspective.

News of the arrangement sent marketers, public relations executives and social media pros into a frenzy as they rework strategies to account for the rapidly changing editorial landscape. These type of partnerships are not only important for professionals that work with media behind the scenes, they carry serious ramifications for consumers, too.

Marketing and PR executives can remember a day when product mentions in editorial were commonplace yet happened organically. If your client or brand had an interesting offering, an editor would likely be inclined to place it in their coverage. The internet-of-things has changed the rules of the game, with more editorial outlets than ever before fighting for the same marketing and advertising dollars.

Nowadays, paid posts are routinely hidden amid editorial content, leaving consumers in the dark about which products or services are receiving genuine endorsements. Fabricated testimonials create confusion. The same battle is being waged more publicly on the social media stage, where sensational leaks reveal how much individual bloggers or celebrities are being paid to post endorsements, sowing distrust among readers. The US Federal Trade Commission has historically tried to crack down on “native advertising” practices, whereby paid ads closely resemble editorial content, but it is finding it difficult to enforce its own rules in this rapidly evolving environment.

Over the years, brands have taken it up a notch by co-hosting branded events with editorial entities. These types of events are increasingly popular for a reason – they work. Not only do you enlist a trusted voice to tell your story, but the attendance of well-known “influencers” creates goodwill with editors by adding a hint of relevance to the related coverage.

Partnerships like the one announced by Condé Nast and Farfetch further blur the lines for marketers and consumers. Vogue, Glamour, GQ, Vanity Fair and Allure are among some of the more popular titles in Condé Nast’s global portfolio. They operate in 29 international markets across multiple platforms. As print titles continue to decrease in popularity and editorial entities struggle to stay relevant, this partnership helps Condé Nast stay ahead of the curve, and may necessitate similar moves by other media conglomerates to keep pace.

Taking it one step further, this may mark a turning point for brands to systematically pick media partners to work with. Chief marketing officers will be taking note, and we can expect to see changes in where they direct their hard-earned advertising and marketing dollars.

Anna Wintour, the famed Vogue editor and now artistic director of Condé Nast, said, “I’ve always believed that what sets Condé Nast apart is our voice and our vision. Partnering with Farfetch only enhances that, and brings a new dimension to all that we offer the world.”

Her recent departure from a purely editorial role is also very telling of the times.

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Anna Wintour, artistic director of Condé Nast

History will tell how the Farfetch/Condé Nast partnership plays out, but for now, the questions on every PR pro’s mind will be: In future, will consumers be able to distinguish genuine, honest editorial from cleverly placed native advertisements? And will the retail and media giants go out of their way to help them tell the difference between the two?

Priscila Martinez

Priscila Martinez is a marketing and public relations professional based in Beverly Hills where she runs The Brand Agency. She focuses on the fashion, beauty and lifestyle sectors and has a variety of luxury and consumer clients in those spaces.