Kylie Jenner, 19, caused a stir last year when she appeared in a fashion spread wearing a cleavage-baring top photographed by fashion photographer Terry Richardson.
The racy images weren’t found in the pages of Vogue or Paper magazine – which the teenager didn’t appear in until this year – but in a publication owned by Galore Media Inc., a company that’s made a name for itself by finding stars before they hit mainstream outlets.
To that end, Galore launched creative agency Kitten, which specializes in connecting female social media stars with brands. While Galore Media is headquartered in New York, half of its staff of 30 work in its newly opened Echo Park office, out of which much of Kitten’s operations are based.
The agency, which represents more than 100 women (whom it refers to as “kittens”) between the ages of 18 and 24, differs from influencer marketing firms in that it signs its talent to multiyear contracts and takes a 15 percent to 20 percent commission on each deal. The firm has signed influencers to promotional contracts with brand clients including Buffalo Jeans, Apple Inc.’s Beats by Dre, and Madonna’s Material Girl junior line.
It also works with clients to create branded content for Galore Media properties such as online publication GaloreMag and its social media channels. Some of the content created in-house is also distributed through channels operated by advertisers. For example, the agency partnered with apparel maker Bongo to help promote its fall products by launching a four-week miniseries late last month on Bongo’s Instagram page using the Stories feature, a Snapchat-like video tool launched by the platform this summer. The episodes are shot live to make things more authentic for viewers.
Prince Chenoa, Galore’s co-founder and creative director, said social media created a generation of female stars such as Jenner who can influence their millions of fans into buying the products they promote.
“Brands are now creating collections and content based on the way this girl is curating her own (social media) page,” Chenoa said.
The company also makes a point of working with brands that are relatable to its core audience, which skews young and can’t afford high prices.
“As much as we love Chanel and Louis Vuitton, I’d rather do something with Guess or Missguided because it’s cool fashion that our girl can afford and likes,” Chenoa said. “For us, it’s about targeting those brands and finding a way to keep them cool through our (Kitten) network.”
Galore isn’t alone in wanting to represent digital influencers. Hollywood talent agencies including United Talent Agency and WME/IMG have also rushed to sign talent with the hopes of brokering lucrative deals. A sponsored Instagram post, for example, can fetch a top influencer up to $25,000.
Raina Penchansky, co-founder and chief strategy officer at the Beverly Hills office of digital talent management firm Digital Brand Architects, said competition had increased since the agency launched six years ago.
“When we first started DBA, people literally laughed in our face,” Penchansky said. “They said there’s no way anyone is going to pay an influencer. They thought we were crazy.”
DBA now represents prominent influencers such as L.A.-based fashion and interior designer Aimee Song and fashionista Chrisselle Lim, who are each reported to make as much as $3 million a year.
Chenoa launched Galore Media in 2012 along with Jacob Dekat, creative director; Mike Albanese, chief executive; and Nick Pastula, chief marketing officer. Albanese and Pastula were executives at Spin Magazine prior to launching Galore. The company has received outside funding but declined to state how much or from whom.
The multimedia company got its start producing online content for its namesake website with stories touching on everything from travel and fashion to pop culture. It also publishes a quarterly magazine.
Chenoa said he and the other co-founders noted the rise of the “Instagram girl” and decided to launch Kitten two years ago. They set up an outpost in Echo Park, where Chenoa and Dekat are based.
“We have a whole team dedicated to scouring Instagram, Snapchat, and finding the best girls that fit into what our motif of what Kitten and Galore is,” he said. “We wanted a girl that represents our gen Z demo of girls that are cool, rebellious, sexy, fun.”
DBA’s Penchansky said many consumers, particularly younger ones, find it easier to take product recommendations from digital influencers rather than actors and actresses.
“With an influencer, you’re used to seeing what face cream she’s using or what jeans she’s wearing,” Penchansky said. “You’re more inclined to make a purchase from an influencer because that’s part of the reason why you seek them out. Gen Z isn’t watching television. They’re watching YouTube.”
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