Fullscreen and GroupM join forces to connect brands with social media stars

YouTuber Devin SuperTramp.
YouTuber Devin SuperTramp.

Partnership gives WPP agencies and clients special access to social media stars and tracking technology

Fullscreen, a multi-channel network and entertainment company, has joined with GroupM to make Fullscreen's stable of social media stars more accessible to WPP agencies' clients. The partnership was announced this evening at a private client event at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The deal creates a new entity called Playa that will be staffed by a Fullscreen team completely dedicated to servicing GroupM agencies and clients. Fullscreen has agreed to supply unique services to GroupM and WPP; in return, GroupM and WPP will market the service to their clients.

Fullscreen, founded in 2011, represents some of the most popular personalities on YouTube, Vine and other social media, playing matchmaker with brands that want to reach young people who focus the majority of their media attention on mobile devices. It provides development services to its talent and also produces original content. Notable "creators" in its stable include YouTube comedy series producers Fine Brothers Entertainment and action sports video maker Devin SuperTramp.

Playa (Ply'-uh) is not an actual company, according to Rob Norman, chief digital officer of GroupM. "It's a branded, joint resource we're creating," he said.

GroupM and WPP have also agreed to a substantial increase in their spending with Fullscreen in 2016 and 2017; if the agencies don't hit the mark, Fullscreen will have the right to withdraw some resources from Playa. Fullscreen, for its part, will discount its services to agency clients.

Several traditional entertainment companies, including Disney and Hearst, have acquired or invested in multichannel networks, or MCNs, in recent years. But Playa represents the first time a media agency had partnered with one.

The partnership is as much about technology as it is talent, according to Norman. Fullscreen has proprietary tools that let it keep track of the 65,000 creators in its network, logging not only the reach they can deliver on each social network but also the characteristics of their audiences.

"We're taking a tool that was internal to Fullscreen only and putting it on planners' desks in GroupM agencies that allows them to plan an influencer campaign in the same way they'd plan a media campaign," Norman says.

He says that access to Fullscreen's toolset will take some of the friction out of the process of bringing agencies and brands together with creators. That could help clients catch a ride with rising stars before they get too expensive or over-exposed.

Norman says, "Celebrity appears so much more quickly now, with so many more niches — and it's much more ephemeral. Having a systematic tool and gateway to who are the most current and relevant choices that can be attached to brands is something we've never had before."

In September, Fullscreen announced an alliance with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) to launch the Creator Network. CBC is Canada's public broadcaster. It will help Canadian YouTube stars develop their brands, attract sponsors and publish content for linear TV and radio, as well as online.

It also revealed plans for a premium, streaming video-on-demand service, also called Fullscreen, targeted at digital natives. It will work with stars and emerging artists to provide original scripted series, unscripted series, hosted shows, feature films, podcasts and editorial, Fullscreen CEO George Strompolos said in a blog post. Former Major League Baseball Advanced Media SVP Martin Keely joined as general manager of the SVOD service, according to Stream Daily.

The alliance between GroupM and Fullscreen is not exclusive; WPP agencies could work directly with social media stars and with other MCNs.

But Norman says, "They do have a broad church of talent under contract, and I'd be surprised if most of the time we didn't find talent solutions at Fullscreen."

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