Refinery29 bolsters European operation with Conde Nast's Jacqui Kavanagh hire

Refinery29 hires Conde Nast’s Jacqui Kavanagh to lead European sales division

Refinery29 has hired Jacqui Kavanagh, former Condé Nast video commercial director, to lead its UK and Germany sales divisions as the company looks to quicken its international expansion with new hires, broadcast deals and branded content.

Kavanagh will also manage global brand partnerships out of Europe, such as Refinery’s recent deal with Sky, which is its first video-on-demand deal that will see the media company take its online video series such as Try Living with Lucie, Womanhood and Game of Life to Sky Q’s online video section.

She joins Refinery29 from Condé Nast Britain where she was commercial director of the publisher's video operation in the UK. Prior to this, she held senior roles at Vice UK, and was head of brand solutions at i-D.

Kavanagh’s hire marks the first time Refinery29 have hired a senior sales executive with a regional remit, fuelling its ambitions to lead the European media scene in the fashion, style and beauty magazine category.

In the space of a just over a year, the business has grown its online audience by 600% in the UK to become the number two in this fashion, style and beautycategory, second only to Hearst Magazines, according to the latest ComScore data.

Refinery29 first launched in the UK in November 2015, and opened its Berlin office in June 2016, with Kate Ward at the helm as VP of international. It now has over 30 staff across its European operations from a range of news brands including i-D, Vice, The Independent, The Debrief and Dazed.

The media business has also promoted Kirsty Hathaway, formerly UK branded content lead, to executive director of branded content in Europe. Her remit will span a range of topic’s most relevant to Refinery's audience, including fashion and beauty, global news, wellness, finance, tech and culture.

Over the past year, the company has struck a number of branded content deals with brands including Coach, Michael Kors, Honour 8, Rimmel, Nike, Venus, Keds, Tommy Hilfiger, Gap and Fossil.

Kate Ward commented: “We are thrilled to welcome Kavanagh with her highly strategic mindset and experience of landmark video programming and to see Hathaway step into a European leadership role.”

“In expanding our senior leadership team we are even better placed to deliver larger scale, multi-market programmes and world class strategic and creative solutions for our brand partners,” she added.

Ward believes it is Refinery29’s “breadth of content” that makes it stand out against its more “niche” competitors, helping it reach the number two spot for readers in its category in just one year.

"One of the reasons Refinery has been able to build such a scaled and engaged audience is because we cover a huge range of subjects from fashion, style and beauty - which is where our brand began in the US - all the way through to politics, wellness, tech and news.

"We also marry different forms of content, so have lots of ‘service’ content - shopping stories, tips and tricks, things that have a call-to-action to them. We have insprirational hard-hitting features, long reads. It is the breadth of content and range of subjects that makes us stand out," she said.

Now that the brand has captured an audience, Ward has plans to build out Refinery's content-led events to bolster its European presence in 2017. In 2016, the publisher ran two content weeks; Motherhood and Rag Week, giving its millennial readers an opportunity to "think about life beyond being young".

Sarah Raphael, UK editor, said content-led events are a "great opportunity to connect with our audience", but is mindful it has to tie in with the brand's distinct tone of voice: "These events have to be carefully chosen, to tie in with something we have written. Our biggest commitment is not to events but to landmark pieces of content for young women."

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