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YouTube’s FameBit has a new sales boss, expanded platform post-acquisition
FameBit hires Google Preferred's ex-boss as its sales chief as YouTube’s influencer marketing platform expands its work with brands and creators.
Influencer marketing platform FameBit has been oddly quiet since being acquired by Google’s YouTube one year ago, according to several executives in the advertising and entertainment industries (“I have not heard anything from them since they went to YouTube. They don’t even cold-call us anymore,” said one agency exec). Now the company is getting ready to break that silence.
“Definitely we’re being strategic in the sense that we want to get it right. We have a lot of things in store for creators that we want to get right,” said FameBit co-founder Agnes Kozera when asked about the company’s low profile post-acquisition.
When YouTube bought FameBit a year ago, the rationale appeared obvious. For YouTube to fend off Facebook, Twitter and others trying to woo its video creators, the Google-owned video service needed to better incentivize those creators to stay. A cut of their videos’ ad revenue could only go so far. The matter was made more urgent this year after YouTube began to de-monetize more videos following brand-safety issues that scared off many major advertisers earlier this year.
“With ‘ad-pocalypse’ it’s a commonly known thing that creators’ YouTube ad revenue has been in decline. With YouTube being a talent-first platform, it makes sense to bring in additional monetization opportunities for talent,” said one ad agency executive.
FameBit, which provides tools to automate branded-content deals between creators and marketers, offered a way for YouTube to support more creators beyond its traditional advertising business. And YouTube offered FameBit a way to extend its work to more creators and more brands and to deepen that work across Google’s properties. That has largely been how the acquisition has played out to date.
FameBit’s post-acquisition purview
Since being acquired by YouTube, some things have changed at FameBit, while others have stayed the same.
The company continues to work with influencers on social platforms outside of YouTube, such as Instagram and Twitter. And its former CEO, David Kierzkowski, remains involved, leading FameBit’s product development.
Meanwhile, FameBit’s product has developed, especially its tie-ins with YouTube and Google. In addition to using FameBit’s platform to hire creators to produce branded videos, marketers can now retarget those videos’ viewers with ads running across Google’s properties. And, as expected, Google’s sales teams have packaged FameBit into their pitches to marketers. The company is also working on a measurement product, though Kozera declined to discuss it “because it’s still in the works.”
It’s unclear how these changes have gone over with marketers. I contacted a half-dozen brands that have worked with FameBit in the past to inquire about how their work with FameBit has or has not changed since the acquisition, but none of them were willing to talk.
FameBit’s new sales boss
Perhaps FameBit’s biggest move since the acquisition was hiring the former head of Google Preferred, Beau Avril, to be its global head of sales and commercialization. “We felt like he was the perfect fit in terms of operationalizing the model within Google and YouTube given that he has built Google Preferred and really understands the space, the players and creators,” said Kozera.
As the head of Google Preferred, Avril oversaw Google’s and YouTube’s efforts to sell major marketers on buying ads against YouTube’s biggest creators. Now as FameBit’s sales boss, he can cover the other end of the spectrum, selling marketers on integrating their brands into the videos of YouTube creators of all sizes.
“With FameBit, we can now provide a comprehensive YouTube offering to our customers, offering native branded content that works well when paired to premium content, like Google Preferred, as well as with the broad variety of YouTube’s content,” said Avril in an email.
FameBit’s challenge and opportunity
Avril has his work cut out for him. Brands are still not exactly comfortable when it comes to working with influencers. And ad-pocalypse and the FTC’s policing of branded-content disclosures hasn’t exactly helped matters. But in addition to needing to assuage risk-averse marketers, FameBit’s sales team also need to explain to brands why working with the intermediary would be necessary.
As the VP of brand and partnerships at WPP-owned creative agency Swift, Buck Wise has never used an influencer marketing platform to arrange branded-content deals with influencers. “When you work with influencer marketing agencies and [multi-channel networks that can span thousands of creators], you lose a bit of control,” he said.
Many others share that stance. Thanks to the rise of so-called “micro-influencers,” there has never been more reason for marketers to turn to programmatic platforms to automate these dealings. And yet brands typically prefer to deal with the influencers directly than to go through an intermediary like FameBit — with one important exception.
There is “a threshold on the amount of influencers you can contact at a given time,” said Wise. While his team has directly managed single campaigns with as many as 30 influencers, the amount of time required to manage a larger campaign, especially when it comes to hammering out contracts and legalities, all but requires an intermediary. “That’s the one thing they have, is speed,” he said.
FameBit recognizes its role and its post-acquisition opportunity to capitalize on it even more. The company originated as a way to facilitate individual brands’ work with multiple creators. Its platform enabled brands to find specific creators that catered to the types of audience and/or content that a brand sought. Many, many other influencer marketing platforms do the same thing, using much of the same data. But since being acquired by YouTube, FameBit has access to data that can help it differentiate itself from the competition.
“Now as part of Google and YouTube, we can use real-time data and audience insights to be more effective at matching brands and creators and in finding out what content is working best with a particular audience,” said Avril.