Liam Chivers – Founder of OP Talent, responsible for managing YouTube Stars including KSI, Joe Weller and Ali-A, talks to SMEToday
As OPI talent grew, could you tell me some of the struggles you faced and how you overcame them?
“At the beginning, it was the credibility factor. In the industry, particularly marketers with budgets saw YouTubers as kids in bedrooms; no professionalism, very risky to spend money on.
“I really took it upon myself to break that myth down and educate the industry. YouTube needed a professional face, someone dedicated to them to knock down doors and present them in the best light.
“In terms of brands, it really took me to highlight the platform and take away the blinkers of the industry who were so used to traditional marketing and physical marketing. It took a few key case studies to get the ball rolling, so we had something to present to the top agencies.
“I remember the very first one which stuck at my head, it’s still a Google case study to this day, about how to grow a brand on YouTube. One of our first clients was KSI, who used to play the video game, FIFA. We actually got in touch with Rio Ferdinand, a Manchester United footballer at the time, because he enjoyed the game too.
“[Rio] was quite new to understanding YouTube, he loved twitter – I think he had about two million followers. KSI only had a couple hundred thousand at the time, but the difference between the two was the engagement.
“KSI was getting 1.5 million views on every YouTube video, even with only a few hundred thousand subscribers. Rio had a few million Twitter followers, played for Man United, was making videos with players like Ronaldo, had access to the dressing room and to the training ground, but was only getting a few thousand views per video on his YouTube channel.
“We did a collaboration where I went to Rio’s restaurant in Manchester, and they played a game of FIFA in the middle of the restaurant at lunchtime. They played two games of FIFA, KSI released the first one on his channel which got about two and a half million views in the first week. And then they played a rematch on Rio’s channel – nearly two million went from KSI’s channel and watched it on Rio’s channel.
“His subscribers went up from 20K to over 100K. His average views went from an average of about 5K to 25K on all future videos, on an upward scale.
“Google saw this and actually got in touch with Rio’s team, who then reached out to us to explain what had happened, because they saw Rio’s blow up overnight. We explained what had happened and they saw the exact timing of the video, the upload, and the links to KSI’s channel – they saw his influence.
“Then they made a nice deck for us, showing how KSI had basically created this brand on YouTube for a celebrity with his own following. The beauty of the case study was the engagement, from less actual followers KSI was able to drive more traffic than the celebrity, who had many followers. That was the difference, the value of the actual followers who were engaging with somebody.
“And that case study was one of the very first which really took off.”
In terms of marketing, what is the secret to capturing and maintaining audience attention in the digital era?
“It comes down to the engagement of the entertainer or the creator. We don’t call them ‘influencers’ per say, it’s the industry does that, and I think that’s key. It’s the relatability with their audience, to have that trust with their audience so they don’t think they’re being influenced by them.
“The beauty of why marketing is so strong amongst this digital era is the people watching them share the same interests. They have largely the same beliefs and interests, and they’re fairly malleable because of that. So if one of our guys is doing a particular type of video, showing a new sport, adventure or product just organically, then people will pick up on that better than if they see a TV advert. Because you’re not there to watch the ads, you’re there to watch the show, the adverts are just filler.
“The actual value of the demographics is the key. Everybody could be watching a TV show on a Saturday night, from young to old, male to female, each with different interests. Whereas if people are watching a particular YouTube channel, they’re there for a reason, for the actual creator or the topic of the video.
“So, you can target demographics more efficiently and cost effectively rather than the blanket approach of traditional advertising.
“When we started working with brands, we would turn down probably 80 to 90% of deals because the fit wasn’t perfect for the YouTuber’s channel. The number one goal is to not upset their audience, not to sell to them, to be completely organic. And it doesn’t matter what the fee is, it’s not worth their career as a YouTuber.
“As long as that integrity stays and the brand can work within the parameters of the content and the style of the YouTuber, then everybody wins.”
Having managed some of the biggest influencers of today, why do you believe these individuals are so popular and how can businesses translate such methods to their own success strategy?
“Well, it comes down again to engagement, the organic nature of the content and how they engage with their followers. They’re far more readily available in the eyes of their fans than somebody they have to wait to watch a football match on a Saturday or wait for a TV show scheduled to actually be able to see them.
“YouTube never goes anywhere. Social media never goes anywhere. It’s always on. They’re always available and accessible, even if it’s just through the content they’re putting out.
“I think this popularity was highlighted best in 2015, when Variety Entertainment, the big US entertainment magazine, did a survey every year of 16- to 18-year-olds. It was a survey about influence, based on popularity of celebrities. They would include the top sports stars, the top musicians, A-list actors, Hollywood actors, and they would put all these entities together and they would ask these young people who they like the most, who they’d want to meet.
“It was really a metric into popularity, to discover who of these actors and celebrities were really liked and would want to be met by fans.
“They were given a Q score out of 100. And for the very first year, 2015, they included 20 YouTubers in the mix amongst all the rest of the stars.
“And lo and behold, top four of the top five were YouTubers!
“That opened people’s eyes with a great case to show brands, ‘here are the popular guys. You may not have heard of them, but they’ve got bigger reach than X, Y, Z, because they have their own platform’.
“I think that’s key for brands. Anybody who is building a brand or image these days, they have to be online. They have to be digital.”
Available to book via The Motivational Speakers Agency, Liam Chivers discusses social media, digital disruption, marketing, and entrepreneurship.