Behind Vice and Intel’s Creators Project Partnership

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It’s no longer a shock that bad-boy media brand Vice would partner with Intel in The Creators Project, a global tech arts and music festival that touched base in New York this past weekend for the second straight year. Following an equally unexpected partnership with CNN, Vice is quickly becoming as known for its establishment allies as for its still-edgy editorial content (its infamous “Dos and Don’ts”; photo sets of undressed models smoking marijuana, etc.) featured in print and online (it recently relaunched at the newly acquired Vice.com domain).

Though brandchannel’s Abe Sauer dismissed the Vice-Intel partnership last year as evidence the brand had become (borrowing co-founder Shane Smith’s words) an “old, fat man,” it was clear from the lines of attractive, upscale hipsters waiting patiently for wristbands that Vice still has more than enough credibility to curate a crowd. And as Sauer then noted, the high-profile alliance is part of a conscious strategy to demonstrate Vice can transfer its “edge” onto an established brand like Intel. [more]

At the weekend festival, it seemed to work. One tattooed twentysomething, racing down a Brooklyn street to a sample-heavy Atlas Sound performance, gushed, “This is awesome, though I kind of feel like I’m in a commercial the whole time.” She didn’t seem too upset about it, and at the thronged show, Bradford Cox thanked Creators Project profusely, bemoaning the lack of anything similar in his Atlanta hometown.

The two-day fair was graced with fine autumn weather and striking outdoor stages (Florence and the Machine headlined to a packed archway under the Manhattan Bridge, where the aroma of weed blended with that of artisanal coffee); recent events have been held in Brazil, Paris and Beijing. Vice events were once notorious for crowd-control issues, but this one was run with an efficiency Disney might envy; most of the free passes were given out by lottery. As web entrepreneur Rex Sorgatz said at 2010’s inaugural Creators Project event, “It’s almost annoying how good Vice is at things like this.”

What makes possible Vice’s pivot from anti-establishment rebel to cheerful dispenser of corporate perks is the difference between 90s-era Gen X’ers and brand-friendly Millennials. For Gen X, as author Neil Howe noted, “if too many people liked something it wasn’t cool.” In contrast, Howe reported Millennials have “no problem” with mass marketing, respond strongly to shared experience, and are “very comfortable with a very smooth brand that has minimal turmoil” – brands like Apple, Starbucks, and (the Creators Project partners hope) Intel.

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