By Anne-Marie Guarnieri| September 1, 2008 |
IN A CLIMATE WHERE MAGAZINE ADVERTISING revenues are down nearly 10 percent since last year and newsstand sales down more than six percent, it would be understandable for media groups to scale back on big events and rein in major expenses. But Richard D. Beckman, president of the Condé Nast Media Group and CMO of Condé Nast Publications, doesn’t seem too worried about the numbers: Fashion Rocks, the starstudded, superstylish multimedia event (and Condé Nast advertising vehicle) that Beckman conceptualized, celebrates its fifth anniversary this year—and with host Denis Leary and a talent lineup that includes Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Lil’ Wayne, and Mariah Carey, it’s easy to see why.
Fashion Rocks is an ambitious endeavor consisting of a print publication (packaged with most of Condé Nast’s September magazines), a live concert followed by a televised version, a charity component (this year it’s Stand Up 2 Cancer), and a large pool of corporate sponsors. From the start, Beckman has attracted high-profile participants, but getting Fashion Rocks off the ground was no slamdunk: “I’ll be honest. Creating this was like pushing a fridge across the beach. In the early stages of such a proposition you have no money, no talent, and no network. So you have to convince the network that you’re going to get the talent, you have to convince the talent that you’re going to get the network, and you have to convince the advertisers—who give you the money—that you’re going to get the talent and the network. It’s this giant game of chicken.”
Beckman’s passion for music and reputation as a tenacious (some would say relentless) businessman are largely responsible for the show’s success—a success that can easily be quantified: Tickets for September’s event, filmed at Radio City Music Hall, sold out in 15 minutes.
“There’s this incredible mingling of fashion and music, and the dynamic has always interested me. We really wanted to create something that was entertaining and expressed that relationship,” Beckman says. “If you asked me five years ago did I believe that we’d have an event of this scale and this success, that has so much buzz and so much recognition… I’d have doubted that we’d be where we are today. But we are, and it’s great.”