As if the influencer marketing space wasn’t already cluttered enough, two global marketing agencies — Edelman and United Entertainment Group — are moving deeper into the influencer marketing space with “Starling.” Starling, a new division dedicated to matching influencers with brands, will continue to work with either company’s roster of brands such as ASICS, AT&T, eBay, Frito Lay, KFC, and Shell, all repped by UEG.
While the entity will be structured somewhat like an MCN in terms of building a dedicated list of talent for its brand clients, Edelman’s SVP of video strategy and programming Rob Jones assured VideoInk that the companies are not getting into managing influencers but continuing to do brand integrations.
“Early influencer programs were built based on advertising sponsorship models. Starling is built on the principles of earned storytelling, lasting relationships, and the rigor of data to deliver against our clients’ business objectives.” said Jess Clifton, Edelman’s US Managing Director, Strategic Growth and Development.
UEG was partially acquired by Edelman in late 2014 and is co-owned by United Talent Agency. Over the past couple of years, the two companies have already collaborated on multiple influencer marketing packages for brands like Petco and Disney Parks. “We are excited to bring our combined expertise to clients, with the same level of excellence and reliability that they have come to expect from both organizations,” said Adam Smith, President of Entertainment at UEG. Starling, some might say, came about then as an attempt to streamline business operations and eliminate redundancies between two teams both operating under the Edelman hood.
One example is a recent branded entertainment campaign Edelman put together for Barilla, the pasta company, with Hannah Hart. Called “While the Water Boils,” Hannah, who’s suprisingly not drunk like in her other claim-to-fame videos, interviews celebrities while preparing a pasta dish.
Influencer activations have become the go-to strategy for brands, entertainment companies and publishers as a mechanism for driving traffic and brand awareness. The structure of deals can vary from day rates to more sophisticated relationships that incorporate price points for social media activity and promotion, as well. In most cases, influencers are priced based on a cost-per-view average. A site, http://whopaysinfluencers.com/, has started cataloging how much brands are paying talent.
Though prices have spiked, Jones believes rates are on the cusp of leveling out. “From a brand’s perspective, it’s got to be close to a media equivalency model” where brands can equate what they will get for a particular investment, similar to how they can with out of home or television buying.
It’s a cluttered space, though with companies like Fullscreen, Maker Studios and Untitled Entertainment also brokering deals on behalf of influencers. Also, how long influencers will stay in the branded entertainment game remains to be seen. But just as the celebrity endorsements of the last decades have sustained, Edelman and UEG are putting Starling in the center of the mix to ensure their brands tap the right digital and social-native celebs.
“[Influencer marketing] is not a fad,” says Jones. “That’s what they said about social media 7–8 years ago and today it’s still a very big part of a brand’s strategy. It’s going to come down to where [influencer marketing dollars] fit in the media equation.”