Mekanism Scoops Up a Social Shop to Bring Influence Marketing in House

Agency tries to own branded content

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A slew of influencer networks have popped up over the past few years that pair social-media stars with brands. But with more brands looking to smaller, niche agencies to run ad campaigns, shops like Mekanism are acquiring the networks and bringing the work in house.

The San Francisco-based agency has acquired Epic Signal, a company founded in 2013 that works with brands like Bud Light and NBC to run video campaigns with social influencers on YouTube, Snapchat, Vine, Periscope and Instagram.

Mekanism CEO Jason Harris said the acquisition will help round out the shop's social offerings for agency-of-record clients including Nordstrom Rack, Jim Beam and Skinnygirl.

Until now, Mekanism has worked with brands to create and produce social content, but it didn't have a way to get those videos in front of the big audiences social-media personalities have. Epic Signal "gets us the best people in the business to work across social platforms for our clients," said Harris.

Harris also said he spent "several million" on the acquisition and pointed to the move as the latest example of how agencies are taking more digital work in house.

"We could come up with the concept and produce the content, but we were missing the way to distribute it to make a hit—that's the missing piece that we just added to the story," Harris said. "This is our answer to offering brands content that we can create and distribute."

Epic Signal's 20 employees will continue to work independently to build the startup but operate out of Mekanism's New York office.

Brendan Gahan, Epic Signal's CEO and founder, worked for Mekanism from 2007 to 2013 as a syndication supervisor and ultimately as its director of social media. After a short stint at multichannel network Fullscreen, Gahan founded Epic Signal to work more closely with brands.

As Twitter's acquisition earlier this year of social-talent company Niche showed, social-media stars are the new minicelebrities for brands. But Gahan argued that brands need bigger strategies to support one-off campaigns.

"Everyone else is coming from the creator point of view, but we're great at packaging up programs and positioning them in a way that the brands can sell through, internally," Gahan said.

@laurenjohnson Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.