As you’ve no doubt seen by now, Viacom just bought influencer marketer WHOSAY. And unlike the uncontrollable Maker Studio mess that Disney bought — and then eviscerated without realizing the incredible potential of a great influencer network — this deal is different and much smarter.
It’s Brand Safe
Brands and networks know they cannot ignore influencers as a channel to reach people, especially the younger consumers. And they have also figured out that Facebook will be playing arbitrage to suit their business needs and increasingly with things like Watch — FB will be ruthlessly prioritizing decisions not in Viacom’s or in brands’ favor per se. And since other places to make bets on the web are still “dangerous”– Viacom and its advertiser base need a solution that uses social platforms, but doesn’t always have to play by the direct-to-FB platform that is stacked against publishers. One great way around is taking advantage of the FB algorithm that isn’t going anywhere: the personality pages. But not in the old, MCN way. That was broken.
WHOSAY is a data-driven influence network, not a network of kids cobbled together by kids (being cheeky here but you know what I mean). The company learned from the blunders of the MCN-like craze of a few years ago and created systems for ensuring message quality, audience targeting, production quality etc. Basically, the company said “hey celebrity or influencer — we’ll produce it and we’ll take over your handle to distribute it correctly.” And agencies could sell that at scale, because brands exhaled cash, knowing the investment was both safe and impactful.
The Math Adds Up
Secondly– the devil is in the data. WHOSAY’s match platform, which allows brands/agencies to find influencers against a bunch of granular criteria, gives Viacom’s velocity the kind of reach and sell-ability the network properties alone couldn’t muster at prices that work. Instead of selling against its network and IP, now Viacom can both sell against the premium properties it develops but then add the age/demo/affinity kickers brands want and deliver a cross-platform solution that is measurable.
It Fills the Mission
Finally, culturally and for the Viacom mission, this deal makes tons of sense. Viacom built the first-ever influencer network on TV after all. It was called MTV and kids of the 1980s like me watched Devo “Whip It,” Bon Jovi live on a prayer and well, hair bands that were somehow tough (I swear!). Then when a hundred more channels came to surround it, and TiVo became a verb, the company had another run- with Jackass which shaped shock-bro culture. And then you know, Jersey Shore and others helped the network go on a tear. The company has never let go of that identity as the conglomerate of influence and now that it has the platform and the network to plug into its infrastructure — the pivot to multi-platform is going to make much better sense for Viacom.
*Disclosure, WHOSAY is a client of my company Fabric Media, however, I was not involved in the announcement of this deal nor have I had the chance to speak with them prior to writing this.