“For too long ads have represented an interruption or intrusion on our daily lives rather than a seamless part of them.”
Older ad formats do not engage the millennial generation. By turning to influencer marketing, content becomes more genuine and, therefore, resonates with today's vibrant youth.
Back in October of 2015, Forbes writer Edmund Ingham sat down with our CEO, Timothy Armoo, to discuss how Fanbytes is leading a shift from intrusive traditional ads to more genuine, native content.
(Originally written by Edmund Ingham for Forbes on October 2, 2015)
It’s probably unusual that at the age of 20 Timothy Armoo is already onto his third tech company but then again, the so called “millennial” generation like to do things differently; they get their news from social media, not newspapers, they watch YouTube and Vimeo, not Fox or the BBC; they become superstars with millions of fans aged 16 just by making videos in which they talk about their everyday lives; and when it comes to marketing, they don’t like to be interrupted with sponsor’s messages or 30 second ads.
Timothy found success with the first two businesses he launched whilst still a teenager; a tutoring business he began aged 14, and a media company he was able to sell to a US company aged 17. Both taught him some valuable lessons, as well as persuading him that being an entrepreneur was something that came naturally to him.
His third company, Fanbytes, which he has cofounded alongside Ambrose Cooke, with Mitchell Fasanya as Chief Technical Officer, helps brands such as Nickelodeon, Go Pro and Adidas run branded collaborations with social influencers on YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and Vine. It’s a business he thinks will help to shape the future direction of the advertising industry.
The Fanbytes team: Mitchell Fasanya (left), Timothy Armoo (centre), Ambrose Cooke (right); photo courtesy of Fanbytes
Timothy believes that social influencer content is “the next frontier of advertising”, arguing that “for too long ads have represented an interruption or intrusion on our daily lives rather than a seamless part of them.” Fanbytes raison d’etre, he says, “has to do with responding to the shift from blatant advertising to more of a shift to native content.”
He goes on; “Typically, you’re reading a piece of content and then a video ad pops out at you disrupting the experience, or you can be scrolling down the feed on Facebook FB -0.83% and an ad comes along which interrupts your consumption. However with the shift to native, exemplified by a site like Buzzfeed for example, there is a need for brands to change how they engage with millennials.”
Age is certainly on Timothy and his team of five’s side: “If you think about the opportunity here with the shift to native content, we have the perfect founding team – young and wickedly smart. My partner Ambrose Cooke, 21, has a mechanical engineering background, ideal for making sure the quality of our brand collaborations are perfect. He invented the Fanbytes Score; it’s a measure of social influence and it’s a game changer when brands partner with us. It’s a wild west now in the influencer marketing industry and he brings normality to it through this unique score”
“Our CTO Mitchell Fasanya is also a millennial; in fact he’s the youngest in the team at 19. He started writing software when he was 11- he conjures up the most amazing products and tools because he knows what resonates with both influencers and brands. In order to really take advantage of this next frontier of advertising, you can’t have a 50 year old ad executive running the show. You need people who understand the context and content of engagement with millennials”
With new methods of advertising come new methods of measuring success; another area where Fanbytes say they are leading the pack with a new model which will appeal to industry insiders.
“We have built tools which enable brands to track and measure every aspect of their campaign. The value of influencers and their social media platforms is engagement and so rather than measuring by impressions, which is what many other marketing platforms do, we measure by the engagement that you get from a campaign. 5 million people may watch your ad, but the real question is how many people actually engaged with you and that’s the big leap we’ve taken from conventional marketing to inventing a new way of measuring success on social.”
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The Fanbytes dashboard; gives brands a 360 view of how their campaigns are performing; photo courtesy of Fanbytes
“I wrote an article for a noted advertising publication about why impressions should not be a measure of success and got a flurry of emails back from conventional agencies who were really offended by what I suggested. However when you’re doing something new there is always push back from incumbents.”
Many brands see 16-24 year olds as their key demographic but struggle to engage with a generation that grew up with social media in their DNA. If a brand can’t tell their Zoellas from their PewDiePies, then they are going to struggle in this market, but Fanbytes makes it easier for them to find YouTube vloggers, Vine performers or Snapchat celebrities whose audience exactly matches the audience they want to target, and the team have the metrics and case studies to prove it.
The platform focuses on what Timothy calls: “the long tail of social influencers.” He explains: “more established vloggers are in fact no longer influencers but rather celebrities which puts them into a different category of influence; when a big time YouTuber endorses a brand it’s now similar to how someone like Taylor Swift will endorse a brand and there is something artificial about it; by focusing on the long tail, brands find creators who are more personable and relatable, which leads to much more authentic engagement between the brand, the influencer and their audience.”
This kind of content has 2 distinct advantages for advertisers; the much cheaper fees they will have to pay to secure the artists services, and the greater variety of audiences brands can reach by involving several different kinds of creators in their campaigns as opposed to just one.
Because Timothy and his team have an average age of just 21 they are in a great position to match talent to brand, without compromising either’s integrity.
Given its success to date, Fanbytes are confident that their goal of becoming “the adwords of influencer marketing bringing the simplicity of buying an advert on Facebook and Google GOOGL +3.43% to the world of influencer marketing”, is achievable. Their platform ensures advertisers are getting plenty of “bang for their buck”, but also operating in a native, non-intrusive way.
“The cost factor is extremely important; for the same price you spend on one heavy hitter, you can use your budget more wisely and work with 5 people through Fanbytes with collectively larger followings and a much more varied audience.”
The “Fanbytes score” provides transparency and makes influencer marketing on Fanbytes a proper media buy rather than a guess game. The team tend to leave the creative side to the vloggers themselves; the results to date have been impressive.
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The Fanbytes score developed by Ambrose Cooke accurately matches brands to the most appropriate social media influencer; photo courtesy of Fanbytes
Fanbytes helped arrange a campaign for Go Pro who wanted to reach the “normal male on the street” as opposed to their typically more radical audience of skateboarders, wakeboarders and free jumpers. Using their creativity and technology, the team matched GoPro to Kieran Brown, a freestyle football trickster whose YouTube channel has over 150k subscribers. Kieran created “Binshots”, a video in which Brown finds ever more elaborate ways of shooting a football into his parents trash can.
Go Pro were so impressed with the campaign, which also created shortform video content for Instagram, they repurposed the content and created a video that was viewed 887k times.
Another campaign involved vlogger Beckii Cruel, who made a video showing 4 different ways to wear a scarf from fashion chain New Look and challenged her fans to wear a winter item in their own way. The winner was invited to spend the day with Beckii at the New Look shopping centre. Again, New Look were impressed, commenting that the character of Cruel was “true to life and believable” describing the campaign as “successful” and adding that “it was a chance to build and interact with our audiences and source data in a natural way.”
Fanbytes also helped Nickelodeon launch a TV show in which creators enacted some things they wish they had done before high school, and challenged their fans to do the same.
“All of this kind of collaboration and content is the sort of content you don’t get through a Facebook, Google or Twitter ad.”, Timothy points out, “it’s the next evolution of what it means for a brand to advertise to a millennial.”
Growing up with social media
Timothy looks and acts like an entrepreneur with wisdom beyond his years, but when I ask him “why social media”, he looks surprised and takes out his phone. “For me and my age group, our smartphones are where we get all our information; our news, entertainment, and how we find out what our friends are up to. So deciding what industry I wanted to be in was a pretty easy decision.”
“Everyone in the team grew up in the social media age and so this is what we know. Yesterday’s ad executive grew up with newspapers; we grew up with Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat”
Timothy is a social media evangelist rather than a performer but he admires the fact that vloggers and YouTube stars have an ability to stay grounded. “If you look at a lot of performers and the content they produce, they’re the girl next door, or your friend from school, and that makes what they have to say more real and strikes a chord with their fans.”
By controlling the way advertisers are matched to vloggers, Fanbytes hope to preserve creators’ integrity, helping them pick and choose the campaigns that are right for them rather than being forced to adapt to an advertiser’s demands. “We can help to educate people about how to engage with millennials”, says Timothy.
It’s not just brands who are coming round to Fanbytes new way of thinking; it seems to be catching on with investors too. The startup has been through multiple rounds of funding with the latest bringing on board notable investor Charles Songhurst, a prominent angel investor who’s invested in game changing Silicon Valley startups such as Classpass and Lumoid.
Timothy has recently been asked to speak at a number of schools around the UK on “how to be a YouTuber”; it isn’t a career that every millennial should be thinking about pursuing, he says, “where will the next generation of doctors, lawyers and teachers come from?”, but for now he’s content to be at the centre of an industry that is young, influential, and upwardly mobile.
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