This Startup Agency Attracted a Stable of Notable Brands by Specializing in Instagram

Target, Life WTR, Boxed and Headspace are clients

Life WTR is taking advantage of Kvell's network of DIY creatives. Kvell
Headshot of Christopher Heine

Dalit Saad and Adam Rosenberg had spent half a decade working the agency grind, each putting in respective stints at TBWA\Chiat\Day and Skullcandy, among other stops. Then, two years ago, they launched Kvell, a shop with a sharp focus on Instagram marketing that’s garnered work from Life WTR, Target, Boxed Wholesale and Headspace.

They started with a simple Instagram account, which has grown to 86,500 followers. It has attracted a global community of hundreds of photographers and creators, whom Kvell works with to create the visions put forth by its brand clients. The Los Angeles-based startup has lifted sales by 71 percent year over year during the first five months of 2017.

Saad and Rosenberg’s business is definitely zeitgeisty, as micro-influencers are a pretty big deal in the marketing world nowadays. So we interviewed them about how its unusual agency operates.

Adweek: Are you at all worried about leaning too much toward Instagram?
Saad: We are not worried about being Instagram focused as we feel it is a very sensible way to begin a branding relationship, especially in advertising today. Instagram gives us the opportunity to discover a client’s ethos and audience in a relatively short amount of time. It also lays a foundation for traditional branding projects, which make up about 50 percent of our business revenue. Developing a brand on Instagram first has become part of our strategy, especially for our start-up clients who are exploring the best way to present their brand to the world. A lot of the same design principles apply, they are just being applied to different mediums.

How does your shop’s process work?
Rosenberg: We first begin with strategy. We work with our clients to define their goals, develop their tone and voice, and identify key insights. We then solidify all the information garnered into a creative brief. We then present creative concepts and approaches for the each deliverable. Then they move on to production. Once the creative concepts are refined and approved, we’ll present the concepts as refined sketches or storyboards to our production partner. We work closely yet remotely with photographers and videographers from around the world to produce the work.

What about the activation strategy?
Rosenberg: This can include Influencer programs or promoting the work on our feeds. We also use our top secret Instagram strategies to gain followers and build engaged audiences. We have successfully grown client accounts as well as our personal accounts by consistently bringing in thousands of followers each month. Our engagement strategies create lasting relationships which result in long-term organic growth, and that’s what truly separates us from the pack.

What’s the best piece of work Kvell has done and why?
Saad: We partnered with [workspace company] NeueHouse and Cadillac to celebrate @meetkvell’s 2016 Artists of the Year, where we commissioned each artist to produce a creative portrait that revealed the faces behind the most liked work on our account. The influencer campaign was launched on the artist’s account as well as on ours, which attracted thousands of new creative eyeballs to the NeueHouse’s account.

The work was then showcased in a one-night exhibition and reception at the Cadillac House in Tribeca, with New York’s leading creatives and influencers in attendance. This one was really special because we got to see the positive impact of the work in an offline experience and the reach the project had after being shared by all.

How much do clients pay for these kinds of posts? Can I get median price?
Rosenberg: It depends on the amount of content and type of content—stills, GIFs or videos—they want to create. It can range anywhere from $10,000 to $70,000.

How are the photographers and videographers paid? Or aren’t they?
Saad: Yes, of course, they are! Each project is tackled on a case by case basis.

What are the key metrics for a post’s performance?
Rosenberg: A post’s performance is based on three factors. Impressions: The total number of times the post has been seen. Reach: The number of unique accounts that have seen the post. Engagement: The total number of unique accounts who’ve liked or commented.

Has anyone tested either brand recall or ad recall? 
Rosenberg: Our clients have not tested brand recall or ad recall, however they have seen a significant increase in followers and engagement once we’ve defined their look and feel, created thumb-stopping content, and implemented strategies to activate their community.

For example, The New Stand, a curated convenience store in New York City, asked us to grow their account and create content that would build a loyal following on Instagram. Our solution was to create engaging games and content, which featured their products during cultural events and holidays. In 12 months, we’ve gained them 52,000 active followers..

How many people work for you?
Rosenberg: Our model is to stay fluid and nimble with the least amount of overhead, so teams can fluctuate anywhere from three to 15 people at a time.

Outside of “being nimble,” why do you prefer a small team?
Saad: We came from the big agency world … crucial elements got lost in translation, the process was unnecessarily time consuming, and people often ended up working in silos.

Do you work on other social channels?
Rosenberg: We primarily focus on Instagram and become experts in field as it’s the No. 1 social media channel. We certainly are aware of other platforms and channels in order to repurpose and leverage that content for our clients.

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.