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AT&T Launches “Hello Lab” So Online Stars Can Lure Young Mobile Users
The effort, with youth media company Fullscreen, calls for 10 mobile-created projects to engage young audiences via YouTube, Snapchat, and elsewhere.
It’s a great time to be young. Not only are politicians fighting over you, but so are AT&T’s and Verizon’s mobile divisions.
This week, AT&T announced the launch of its Hello Lab, a year-long project where 10 social influencers — who have built followings on YouTube, Snapchat and elsewhere — will develop what the company describes as “cross-platform programming and live experiences” that include videos, social challenges, podcasts, and live meet-ups.
Created on mobile devices, the results are intended to engage young audiences, and they’ll be shown on the influencers’ showcases of choice.
The first programming effort is the “Dare to Travel” weekly episodic series on the YouTube channel of Damon and Jo, a high-energy pair who specialize in showing how to travel cheaply. The idea is that they will visit places that have been recommended by the audience, following challenges issued through Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.
The Lab is a collaboration with the Strategic Content Group at Fullscreen, a youth media company that boasts 600 million subscribers across a network of 75,000 online creators. Based in LA, Fullscreen began collaborating with AT&T in 2012 with an unscripted YouTube reality series called @SummerBreak. Now in its third season, that co-effort has generated more than 150 million views and 2.9 billion impressions. Another collaborative project, Snapper Hero, is a Snapchat-based superhero series.
So far, the Lab has signed up these “Hello Lab ambassadors”:
- Video star Grace Helbig
- “Travel tandem” Damon and Jo
- Magician Collins Key
- Ex-pro basketball player/current Instagram comedian Brandon Armstrong
- Snapchat star Shaun McBride, also known as Shonduras
“They’re putting faith into a girl that talks to a camera alone in sweatpants,” Helbig pointed out in a statement. AT&T said other Lab participants will be announced soon.
Hello Lab is based on what AT&T and Fullscreen have learned about branded entertainment for 18-to-24-year-olds through their previous collaborations, Liz Nixon told me by phone. She’s the director of Emerging and Social Media Marketing at AT&T Mobility.
She noted that the participants will be provided with “the latest products and devices” for their use in their productions, including VR goggles, selfie sticks, smartphones, and other gear.
“It’s like an athlete signed by a sports clothing line,” she said.
The bottom-line value of the project, Nixon said, is two-fold. The Labsters will act as brand ambassadors, and their efforts — the videos, social sharing and challenges, podcasts, live events, and other results — create a range of branded content marketing that associates AT&T with this kind of dynamic storytelling.
Not “Hired Guns”
But does AT&T’s marketing needs dampen the thing that makes these creators popular — their idiosyncratic styles and subjects?
Nixon acknowledged that “a lot of brands treat [social influencers] as hired guns.” But she and Billy Parks, senior vice president of Fullscreen, told me that the creators take the lead in what they want to create, although each participant is given a creative brief. The project also revolves around the notion that some ideas come from fans.
Nixon and Parks added that some of the participants’ creative work is posted online directly, without review by either company, and some is sent to Fullscreen’s facility for a team post-production effort, after which there is a “mutual sign-off.”
The Hello Lab “aligns with a pivot for our company to become an entertainment brand,” Nixon said, adding that the Lab is intended to become “a multi-year effort.”
Last fall, Verizon launched its go90 ad-supported mobile video service, which that company said was targeted at Millennial and Gen Z viewers.
In addition to thousands of episodes from TV shows, go90 features live sports and several dozen exclusive original series created with Vice, Endemol Beyond USA and other program producers, and propelled by social media.
(Updated 2.12.16 at 5:24 pm ET with comments from AT&T and Fullscreen.)