Earlier this month, I announced one of the biggest acquisitions of my career. With this deal, PureWow becomes the cornerstone property of The Gallery, a new company I have created as a sister company to VaynerMedia. Both of these companies, VaynerMedia and The Gallery, now sit under my holding company: VaynerX. This is the first time there will be an owned and operated publishing platform with distribution within one of my companies.
In my career, I've been involved with companies like Business Insider, PopSugar, and Refinery29. I've been watching and admiring a lot of these "modern media companies" along with others like BuzzFeed, Vice, and Vox that have successfully built large media properties in a modern world the same way I would have. As these companies scaled I started realizing that, at a macro level, end consumers were starting to care less and less about who was delivering the information, and more about what the information was about.
Content mattered, not the medium. It was intriguing to me how many consumers, especially under 35, would value a Business Insider article like they would something from The Wall Street Journal. I think that is a huge nod to these modern media companies compared with traditional media brands from Hearst or Conde Nast.
Every acquisition has its business realities. To me, this one had a lot to do with the timing and growth of VaynerMedia. Since I started the company with my brother AJ eight years ago, I've always asked questions like: How can we bring the most value to our clients? What's our place at the table as a media conglomerate? Back then, I didn't know what VaynerMedia would become--especially not the creative/paid media/video production agency it is today.
However, in the past few years, I've become more confident about VaynerMedia and what we were doing as a company. If I had made this decision three years ago, I'd only be working with $25 or $27 million revenue. In 2016, when VaynerMedia had $100 million in revenue, not only was I in a place to be able to afford an acquisition like this, but it felt so right after VaynerMedia's own exploration of acquiring and creating small media sites for clients like Mondelez and General Electric.
So what attracted me to PureWow? A lot of things actually. But something I will always stick to is my belief of betting on the jockey, not just the horse. Ryan Harwood, CEO, and Mary Kate McGrath, editor-in-chief, to me, were the one-two punch that was most impressive. Unlike many of the companies that have relied on social media platforms (like Facebook) to drive their traffic, Ryan and Mary Kate have been able to build and sustain itself as an actual brand with a voice and creative built strongly on organic growth. I often talk about how it doesn't matter how many followers you have on social networks, it matter how many of them care and engage with your content.
I also believe that PureWow owns the sweet spot when it comes to the American consumer market. Where I think a lot of other media properties skew younger or older, PureWow has an audience with the classic 28-55 year old woman. This "upper millennial mom" is always going to be an unbelievably important decision-maker on how things are purchased and consumed. It should be any marketer's obsession and something I'll be interested in until the day I die.
So, that's what led me to this acquisition: VaynerMedia's continued growth, the two jockeys and how they grew their team, and the deep level of engagement that their audience has.
There are two big learnings that I think everyone can take away from this acquisition. The first is that you should always be on the offense. To this scale, there has not been a significant M&A maneuver led from the creative agency side into the media side and I wasn't going to wait around for somebody else to do it first. You should always try to disrupt yourself before somebody disrupts you. That's what's going to lead you to growth.
The second learning is that, even if you're on the offense, allow yourself to be in the right position to make your move. A few years ago, I think I could have done something pretty significant, but it would have only been a 7/10 move. But, by holding my breath and being patient and putting the pieces in place, I was able to make an 11/10 acquisition.