TalkTalk and Unilever poised to ramp up social influencer marketing efforts

TalkTalk and Unilever are among the launch clients for a new venture from The&Partnership, which is rooted in the rise of brands spending big to tap into the huge audiences that popular users' across YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter command.

Called The&Collective, the WPP-backed division will look to partner brands with vloggers, bloggers and artists to help them better reach the much-sought after millennial audience.

TalkTalk, which already pumps its creative work through the agency, has already taken advantage of social influencers in its marketing, signing up YouTubers like Jake Boys to take part in its ‘Talking Heads’ X-Factor idents.

“We’ve seen through campaigns like our X-Factor sponsorships what an increasingly powerful role social influencers play in driving engagement with millennials, who spend more and more time on social media,” Tristia Harrison, managing director for the consumer division at TalkTalk, told The Drum.

“It’s great to see an agency embracing influencer marketing, and bringing a new approach to the discipline.”

Fellow founding client Unilever will also be looking to tap into the potential connections that online influencers promise. It has already worked with these new generations of celebrities through its Dove and Sure brands. However, Keith Weed, chief marketing and communications officer at Unilever said the importance of influencer marketing within the brand's comms mix is only growing.

“[…]younger generations in particular value authenticity and word–of–mouth recommendations over more traditional marketing messages,” he said. “It’s also great to see that in [The&Collective], there is a real focus on ensuring the content their talent creates is empowering for viewers.”

Burgeoning market

The venture is not necessarily a novel one. Companies such as Gleam were quick off the mark to bring the faces behind some of the UK’s most popular blogs and YouTube channels under one roof to act as matchmaker between talent and brands. Such initiatives however, tend to represent the interest of the talent.

The&Collective is claiming to be the first talent agency born from within the UK’s media industry to prioritise the agenda of the client in the burgeoning space. It has promised an end-to-end offering that will include scouting and managing talent to build campaigns that will draw on cross-discipline insights from across The&Partnership.

The Group’s founder Johnny Hornby explained: “There are agents and there are traditional talent management companies out there, but I can’t see anyone else doing this […] the brands we’re working with across The&Partnership can see the scale of reach and engagement offered by digital influencers who are already admired and trusted by thousands of followers.”

Its influencer roster currently includes Maddie Bruce (61k Instagram followers and 135k YouTube subscribers), Lucy Flight (44k Instagram followers and 27k subscribers), Blake Steven (89k Instagram followers and 15k YouTube subscribers), Charlotte Hole (22k Instagram followers, 13k YouTube subscribers) as well as Sarah Ashcroft, Tia Ward, Jodie Porteous with similarly impressive audiences.

In exchange with working with brands, The&Collective says it will offer the talent on its books a data-driven rewards programme and remunerate them on a commission basis for sales driven directly by their content.

Potential

The opportunities for the division’s growth are evident. The agency pointed to recent studies which show up to 75 per cent of marketers are now investing in influencer marketing and 60 per cent of brands will increase the amount they spend on it in 2015-16.

For such brands, the numbers also appear to stack up; for every £1 spent on influencer marketing, the brand expect a return of up to £6.50 while customers acquired through social influencers have a 37 per cent higher retention rate.

Jenny Halpern Prince, founder of PR agency Halpern, who will head up The&Collective, said: “It’s no secret – the world is shifting to social media. And consequently there has been an increase in brands wanting to invest in influencer marketing – they are realising that digital influencers can reach and influence millions of engaged followers.

“The&Collective is more than matching digital influencers with brands, though – we will use our creative and brand storytelling expertise to help craft the ideas. Unlike a traditional ‘talent management’ operation, we are not a middle man – we are the catalyst for creative brand communications.”

Joining TalkTalk and Unilever as initial clients are haircare brand TIGI, Olay, Nintendo, Disney.

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