The multichannel network Fullscreen is trying to run far away from the label of “just a YouTube ad network.”
In fact, the company–which built its business by helping manage thousands of YouTube stars–wants to become more of a youth marketing brand consultancy, and one that is much less YouTube-dependent, says chief executive George Strompolos.
Last week, Fullscreen announced plans to build out a studio designed to help advertisers create highly customized digital content centered around digital influencers. The company, which AT&T T -0.20% and media mogul Peter Chernin purchased a majority stake in last fall, tapped Billy Parks and Bryan Thoensen as senior vice presidents of the new strategic content group.
Mr. Parks was previously an executive vice president for digital production and programming for The Chernin Group, while Mr. Thoensen ran brand content at Hulu.
With Web video advertising surging, you might wonder why Fullscreen would invest so deeply in such labor-intensive, seemingly hard-to-scale work (like this Pizza Hut video featuring YouTube star Andrea Russett) versus just selling lots of pre-roll ads.
Mr. Strompolos said he sees this new group operating as part production studio and part youth marketing consultancy. “We’ve done a lot of work with brands over the last few years,” he said. “And now that more of them ‘get it’ in terms of what’s going on [with this young generation's shifting media habits] They no longer want to do ‘one-offs.” They want to connect with this audience. So the goal of this group…definitely will to be more involved in strategy and planning for advertisers. We are moving upstream if you will.”
And moving off YouTube for some brands. “A creator for us is anybody who makes content and is tastemaker,” said Fullscreen Chief Revenue Officer Michael Wann. “So that’s anybody in our portfolio, from stars on Instagram to Snapchat. We are no longer just YouTube-specific.”
To be sure, Fullscreen’s business is still anchored by YouTube. But increasingly, as it is many in the Web video arena, Facebook is becoming an key focus. Mr. Strompolos said that Fullscreen is as excited about Facebook as anybody, but he’s anxious for it to hatch an advertising plan for video. “Facebook is doing really well, but we are taking a wait-and-see approach,” he said. “There is still no clear path to monetization.”
There does seem to be a clearer path to monetization for companies that promise to help advertisers cater to social media influencers. Earlier this week, Twitter purchased Niche, a startup that helps brands connect with talent on Vine and other platforms.
At some point, you have to wonder whether ad agencies start feeling squeezed out by these middlemen. But Mr. Strompolos sees agencies playing a key role in this ecosystem, particular given that there are so many new players in the mix, and somebody needs to play quarterback.
Meanwhile, as Fullscreen pushes deeper into sponsored content and consulting work, the company is also recognizing the growth of programmatic, or more automated and data-driven, ad buying. That’s something many MCNs are contemplating.
To that end Fullscreen has a product in beta called Influencer Plus, or I-Plus, aimed at helping advertisers crank out quick brand mentions from Fullscreen’s deep pool of talent.