Capping a year that saw his media empire expand into linear TV with the launch of its Viceland TV channel and the opening of a state-of-the-art studio in Toronto’s Liberty Village neighbourhood, Vice Media co-founder and CEO Shane Smith has been named the Cannes Lions 2016 Media Person of the Year.
The award will be presented June 22 at the annual celebration of marketing and media creativity in France.
In a release, Lions Festivals CEO Philip Thomas described Smith as an influential figure in the global media landscape, responsible for evolving the Vice brand from its humble origins as a brash Montreal punk magazine into the world’s leading youth media company.
Thomas said Smith has created Emmy, Peabody and National Magazine Award-winning content while being recognized for reinventing the news documentary – presenting complicated and urgent subjects including the environment and criminal justice in accessible terms.
“As a man of great talent, diversity and unstoppable drive, [Smith is] a very worthy recipient of this accolade,” said Thomas.
Smith transformed Vice Media into a modern media behemoth by brokering deals with leading platforms across mobile, digital and linear in order to syndicate its video content to viewers around the world.
The company is said to produce up to 6,000 pieces of content a day in more than 30 countries, ranging from a short-form video dedicated to fashion or travel, to print articles and 30-minute TV shows.
From its modest beginnings in the mid-1990s, the company has been valued at as much as US$4.5 billion following investment by companies including Disney and A&E.
But, despite rubbing shoulders with global media powerbrokers, Smith has maintained his journalistic credentials. He also serves as host and executive producer of the Emmy Award-winning news series Vice on HBO, and has reported from hot (and cold) spots around the world including North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan and Greenland.
Smith said one of his joys when he was younger was watching the Cannes Lions winners at his local rep theatre. “To see the funny, salacious and over-the-top commercials from around the world offered a window into a different and tantalizing dimension to a teenager living in snowy Canada,” he said, calling the award “simultaneously humbling and immeasurably pleasurable.”
Established in 1999, the Media Person of the Year Award honours innovators who have “shaped the future of media.” Smith joins an illustrious circle of winners that includes HBO CEO Richard Plepler (2014), YouTube CEO Salar Kamanga (2013), Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (2010) and Viacom chairman and CEO Sumner Redstone (2002).