Over the past several years, influencer marketing has been used by both small and large companies to promote a variety of messages across a huge range of online and mobile audiences. The industry’s growing success has resulted in an avalanche of influencer marketing acquisitions by companies looking to capitalize on the buzz and utility of this personalized outreach tactic.
Since 2013, U.S. Google searches for the term “influencer marketing” have increased nine-fold (9x) as more and more marketers have invested in what is projected to become a $5-10 billion industry by the year 2020. The crowded and complex space has spawned industry specialists, such as influencer marketing agencies and multi-channel networks, that help brands navigate everything from finding the right influencer, to designing campaigns, to reporting on final results.
As digital marketing grows in popularity and traditional advertising outlets decline, influencer marketing acquisitions haven’t just pointed a transfer in ad dollars, but a larger shift in the way a number of businesses are viewing the current and future media landscape.
Quotient agreed to acquire influencer marketing agency Ahalogy for $20 million on June 1, 2018 with an additional $30 million to be paid out based on meeting certain performance criteria. According to Quotient President and CEO, Mir Aamir, the addition of Ahology will “expand and grow our [Quotient’s] digital media solutions, with a specific focus on CPG shopper marketing.”
Self-described as “the Match.com of brands and creators on YouTube,” Reelio was acquired by creator hub Fullscreen on April 4th, 2018. Taking a “social-first and content-driven” approach, Fullscreen general manager Pete Stein predicts that Reelio’s integration will give Fullscreen “a complete solution for the future of brand marketing.”
Just a month before its purchase of VidCon, Viacom acquired Whosay, the influencer marketing company co-founded by Hollywood packaging powerhouse, Creative Artists Agency. The addition of Whosay to Viacom’s portfolio is intended to help the company leverage intellectual property — from entertainment brands, such as MTV, Logo TV, and Comedy Central — in the digital marketing space.
In February 2017, influencer marketing platform Grapevine Logic sold a majority stake to Asian media mogul Bruno Wu and his Sun Seven Stars Media Group. The partnership will help Grapevine Logic with the resources it needs for further growth, while giving Sun Seven Stars a social content and distribution platform within its vast network of global media companies.
In a bid to better connect brands to influencers, Google purchased FameBit in late-2016 for an undisclosed amount of money. The acquisition was intended to use FameBit’s influencer-focused technology to help Google better leverage its deep pool of YouTube creators for branded content partnerships.
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Brand technology company, You & Mr Jones, purchased a majority stake in Invite-only influencer marketing platform theAmplify in April 2016. The decision came after You & Mr. Jones received feedback from their brand partners about their growing interest around influencer marketing.
Analytics firm and influencer marketing agency HelloSociety sold to the New York Times in March 2016. The deal was struck to help the Times’ advertising arm, T Brand Studio, expand its services to the area of influencer marketing. As TechCrunch reported after the original announcement, Times’ senior vice president of advertising and innovation, commented, “There’s a broader vision to help brands think more like programmers and less like advertisers. We see T Brand playing a crucial role in that space.”
Digital marketing agency Resource/Ammirati was acquired in 2016 by technology and business solutions giant IBM. Rebranded under IBM (Interactive Experience unit) iX in 2017, the purchase of Resource/Ammirati was completed to support iX’s expanding creative and design ambitions.
One of the industry’s first big influencer marketing acquisitions involved social media platform Twitter and startup agency Niche. The 2015 purchase allowed Twitter to connect brands and influencers through personalized campaigns, as well as report on cross-platform analytics.
Previously majority-owned by Comcast/NBCUniversal, youth-focused AwesomenessTV was acquired by Viacom just this past month. The deal, reported to be somewhere below $300 million, will bring AwesomenessTV’s creative offerings and influencer relationships under the helm of Viacom Digital Studios.
Holding a majority stake in Fullscreen, AT&T and the Chernin’s Group’s joint venture, Otter Media, bought out the entirety of the multi-channel network at the beginning of 2018. AT&T is rumored to be eyeing a complete buy out of Otter Media in a bid for full control of the streaming video conglomerate.
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European media giant ProSiebenSat.1 merged their multi-channel network Studio71 with the company’s Red Arrow Entertainment Group under the umbrella Red Arrow Studios in late-2017. Combining influencer relationships with top production capabilities, Red Arrow Studios looks to expand its branded content offerings and services for international audiences.
European broadcasting network, RTL Group, agreed to acquire a controlling stake in fashion-focused multi-channel network, StyleHaul, in late-2014. According to RTL Group co-CEO’s Anke Schäferkordt and Guillaume de Posch, StyleHaul’s “web content and the synergy potential with RTL Group’s broadcasters and producers,” was a good fit for the company.
In one of the first major influencer marketing acquisitions, Disney purchased Maker Studios for $500 million in March 2014. Refocused to serve a more family-oriented agenda, Maker was absorbed by online story-incubator and distribution platform Disney Digital Network in May 2017.
Founded in 2005, Revision3 was one of the first successful web-based “television networks.” Purchased by Discover Communications in May 2012, the acquisition helped to legitimize the value and reach of web-focused original video content.
In an increasingly digital landscape, influencer marketing acquisitions aren’t a surprising manifestation. Like the world of traditional marketing and celebrity endorsements that came before it—which include management companies, agencies, and public relations’ firms—the influencer marketing industry has spawned specialists in a variety of relationship-oriented services. The influencer marketing agencies and multi-channel networks assuming these roles not only work to connect brands and creators, they’ve also helped to shape the burgeoning industry.
For the social media platforms, news outlets, entertainment studios, and telecommunications companies looking for a stake in the future of influencer marketing, having an agency or network integrated into their organization can be an incredible asset. However, some acquisitions have resulted in downsizing and other issues. As for which investments bear fruit and which are folded, forgotten—or worse—we’ll have to keep a continued eye out.