dward East was such a big fan of Farrell Williams that when the American rapper launched a fashion label called the Billionaire Boys Club, East bought the domain name BillionDollarBoy.com “in the hope that one day it might grab his attention and become a leader in introduction.”
That didn’t happen – but the name stuck, laughs 35-year-old East, who founded his influencer marketing agency under that name in 2014, in the early days of social media marketing. Billion Dollar Boy now has 110 employees and a turnover of £ 18 million.
The inspiration came when East worked at his father’s film company Exclusive Media in Los Angeles. “At the time, I was working on a new way to monetize movies on YouTube,” he explains, “and then I realized that while brands were obsessed with working with bloggers, they needed to connect with YouTubers.”
East noted that film studios have started playing YouTubers to promote their work, and talking to his friend – and now BDB co-founder – Permel Doyle, who worked at Estee Lauder, he learned that the American beauty giant is starting to pay Instagram. also promote your products.
East began spending his evenings and weekends creating a database that would link bloggers to brands, which was the beginning of the BDB. Doyle set up an office in New York, while East and another friend, Tom Walters, began work on a startup in London, starting with four employees in a small office on Percy Street, Fitzrovia – in the same room where Ricky Gervais written by The Office ”in 2014. They used £ 230,000 in start-up money from friends, family and industry contacts and began offering ‘creator marketing’ and ‘YouTube Rights Management’. “Unlike most companies in our industry, we have never raised institutional capital,” adds East. “Our competitors have raised millions of pounds and given up large shares of their equity to reach the position they are in today, but we have done it all organically.”
Early work included managing Vine (the now-defunct six-second video cycle) stars Staga, Joe Charman and Desa Black. They worked on companies for Bentley – BDB had Instagram users creating content that drives its cars in Nevada – and McDonald’s, promoting a layered summer drink.
The initial growth was slow: “there were months when I panicked to do payroll. Influencer marketing was a nascent industry, and very few people working in brands believed it would work, so getting some of their marketing costs was a challenge. ”
When they got the job, BDB’s reputation had to be protected at all costs – that’s how East found himself in skinny shorts in a stuffed Soho for lunch. “During one of our first campaigns at McDonald’s one of our influential people didn’t show up, so I had to volunteer to take their place. At the time, it was for McDonald’s Facebook page where people voted for different outfits, and I had to pose in very tight shorts in Soho Square where everyone was having lunch and looking at me. I’m definitely not made for modeling! I removed all the images from our shared drive at work so my co-founders couldn’t dig them up and use them against me. ”
Two years on the BDB signed £ 300,000 with skincare giant Garnier; other early brands on board included the handbag manufacturer Coach. BDB now has a patented “Creator Management” platform, Companion, which includes a large database of influencers and demographics of each of their audiences to match the brands to their ideal target market.
“Today, some creators perform branded content that is as creative and high-quality as big-budget photography,” says East. BDB now works with brands including Procter & Gamble, Sky, Sainsbury’s and Primark, and has offices in New York and New Orleans, as well as London.
Turnover tripled from £ 2.7 million in 2019-2020: “Spending the first day at home after the office closed due to Covid, the uncertainty was incredibly dire. But fortunately, due to the explosion in popularity of marketing creators we didn’t have to cut back. Brands have finally recognized their potential to create engaging, effective content that stimulates [return on investment] even if it is done without leaving your own home.
Revenues now stand at £ 18 million, but the East believes they will double over the next 12 months when the BDB opens a new office in Brazil to supplement its outposts in London and New York.
“One of the biggest problems facing advertising agencies is reputation,” he explains. “The industry we work in is controlled by a different generation that has completely different concerns, interests and views of the world, and they haven’t grown up with social media. Our people are nominating us, and we are trying to break the traditional, so to speak, toxic trajectory of the advertising industry. “
BGB team: 110
Turnover: £ 18 million
Inspired by Farrell Williams to make a hit with YouTubers
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