How Multichannel Networks Are Grooming the Next Generation of Video Stars

Plus, 5 influencers you should know about

With marketers and media buyers putting social stars PewDiePie, Lilly Singh and Logan Paul into heavy rotation, multichannel networks now are incubating the next wave of talent through a host of development programs such as Maker Studios' Spark initiative, which is funding some 30 different creator projects. The bonus in doing so, say buyers, is having greater control over emerging brands.

"When you go really big, you have less creative control," explained David Lang, president, Mindshare Content+Entertainment. "When you work with up-and-coming influencers, they may have less followers, and they still make it on their own, but the brand may have a little bit more creative input."

Lang believes brands should be working with lesser-known as well as more-established influencers to give them more well-rounded campaigns, and many networks are making that happen. Some MCNs are also pairing emerging talent with established stars.

Max Polisar, AwesomenessTV's chief revenue officer, says that when brands come calling for an influencer-backed campaign, it has taken to promoting lesser-known talent who might not get the scale of the established stars but still have the ability to amplify a campaign. "We pitch them folks that would be like-minded, that have really high engagement," he said.

For Old Navy's #Unlimited back-to-school campaign, AwesomenessTV put Alex Aiono, one of its more-established stars, in a music video that also featured up-and-comers. The effort scored more than 12 million views on YouTube.

Other video networks, including Fullscreen's Playa and Twitter's Niche, "allow people to identify up-and-coming talent much easier with specificity of who their audience is and who they're engaging with," said Lang.

Machinima's Spotlight program goes even further, testing emerging talent. "[We] give them the opportunity to create videos based on a challenge that we give them," said Don Reilly, Machinima's head of national brand partnerships. "We're looking at hours and hours of YouTube videos to go find the talent we want to reach out to."

Spotlight then allows Reilly and his team to narrow the field to match influencer and brand. "We're taking some of the series that we've asked them to create, and we're packaging them up, and we're taking them to brands so they can have a look, not just at the content, but who's behind the content," he said.

YouTube gamer JeromeASF (Jerome Aceti), for example, created the web series The Bacca Chronicles under the Spotlight program, which launched last November and was sponsored by Verizon's Go90 mobile platform."

This story first appeared in the May 2, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.

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