Fullscreen Acquires Reelio: Keys to Reelio’s SuccessBy Aileen Zou
Fullscreen Acquires Reelio: The Secret Sauce Behind Reelio’s Success
Earlier this month, Fullscreen acquired marketing startup Reelio. The platform collects data of video creators and connects them with influencers to reach their followers and target audiences. The robust technology behind the platform is adding transparency, efficiency and effectiveness to the traditional digital marketing industry.
I caught up with Ben Williams, Reelio co-founder and COO, as he deals with the integration on the business side and a newborn at home. (Pictured left… mega cute factor)
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of “influencer marketing”, it basically involves the process of hiring an “influencer”, usually someone with at least 10,000 followers on whatever platforms they command, to promote the product or service you are trying to sell to their followers.
However, for the longest time, marketers have scouted for social media influencers manually (re: randomly) and struggled to use them effectively. Influencers typically lack familiarity with a given product’s strengths and weaknesses or their followers’ interests, demographics, industry backgrounds, etc. On top of this, the communication, creation and payment process involved in hiring an influencer can be extremely time and labor intensive. Usually, after going through all the trouble, marketers usually find the campaign result not satisfying. Until Reelio came to rescue.
It All Started Here, In Huntsman Hall
As a serial entrepreneur, Ben began his MBA at Wharton wanting to start his next company. Knowing social media was booming, he and his co-founders did a deep dive to find what the pain points were in the industry. After identifying problems like the unknown result of influencer ad campaigns and cooperation problems with creators, the team decided to apply technology and data to solve marketers’ pain points around influencer marketing and founded Reelio in 2012.
“Picking ideas is not as important. You should try to find a big market, identify the pain points of the key players, and solve their problems. If your personal interest is in the same area, that’s almost a perfect situation.”
– Ben Williams, Co-founder/COO of Reelio
Now, social media marketing is one of the key channels marketers allocate budget to. More and more influencer marketing agencies are coming out seemingly daily. However, Reelio still views itself with very limited direct competition. The main categories of competitors are high-end ad agencies and technology platforms. But none of these competitors blend technology capability and industry expertise like Reelio does.
Reelio Case Study (Not The Business School Kind)
This case study gives a clearer example of how Reelio partners with brands to promote through influencer marketing
The challenge: Visa Checkout partnered with Taco Bell for a limited time promotion and looked to influencers to drive downloads of the Visa Checkout App.
Reelio’s strategy: Reelio not only educated Visa on Influencer Marketing, but also suggested a more authentic approach to brand integration. Additionally, the exclusive discount drove a higher ROI and a successful campaign execution. (BigDawsTV’s hilariously awkward attempts to “half-way hug”. The reactions are priceless.)
Results: Reelio’s team matched Visa with the right influencer to organically appeal to Taco Bell’s demographic. Within a 4 day promotional period, Big Daws drove an outstanding 20% CTR. His light-hearted original approach motivated his audience to download the app and convert.
Comparison: 20x Average Engagement of Casual Dining Influencer Marketing Campaigns according to eMarketer
Check out this youtube video on how it all went down.
Things Haven’t Always Been So Rosy…
Every startup pivots. Period. It is not a shame to talk about changes you make or detours you take, because that is where you learn more about customers’ problems and needs, so that you can come up a better way to serve them.
Ben gave me two examples of mistakes Reelio made in the early days. One of the pain points the team discovered when talking to influencers was that creating videos is time and resource intensive. So, Reelio set out to build physical space for influencers to make their marketing promotions. But soon the company realized influencers don’t have enough cash to spend on renting out the space and overheads were quite high. That was a key inflection point for for Reelio and since then it’s exclusively charged brands instead of creators.
Another lesson Ben learnt was to never spread oneself too thin. He said at first Reelio was trying to answer too many problems associated with influencer marketing. There are tons of pain points in any industry, but the key is to pick only a few, if not one, to solve. If you try to do everything, you will not excel at anything.
Great Acquisitions Are Like A Great Marriage
Before he knew it, there were several acquisition offers coming Reelio’s way. Ben laid out 3 reasons why he saw Fullscreen is their best partner.
First, Fullscreen knows the digital marketing space very well. Owned by Otter Media, Fullscreen is the joint venture between AT&T and the Chernin Group. Being in the same industry and speaking the same language is tremendously important during the integration. Second, the customers of the two companies are quite complimentary. Fullscreen is higher on the food chain while Reelio focuses on the mid-market accounts, so there is a lot of synergy between the two. Last but not least, it all comes down to people. According to Ben, people on both sides respect the other side’s work and feel comfortable working together. And that’s the most important thing.
Going forward, Ben thinks the already crowded industry will be further sub-divided, with companies focusing on more specific tools and areas. That being said, he does not think consolidation will happen anytime soon because unlike Ben Thompson’s analysis of tech sector’s consolidation in ‘Aggregation Theory’, digital marketing requires creativity and is highly dependent on personnel. Thus, companies will try to stay nimble and fast.
Before the acquisition, Reelio had raised $8 million from investors including e.ventures, Tremor Video co-founders Jason Glickman and Andrew Reis and former Bertelsmann president Thomas Hesse. After the acquisition, all 50+ employees at Reelio including the top management are staying with Fullscreen and intend to further grow the business. I can’t remember seeing a more perfect deal (and that’s with three years of investment banking under my belt.)
Some Practical Tips for Entrepreneurs (You Are Welcome)
Ben finds it is important to keep balance in life. When he needs to do intellectually challenging work, such as thinking deeply about the landscape, he does some less intellectually stimulating activities like video games, drinks with friends, or working out. This helps ease the stress and tension in his head. When he spends a lot of time hiring and cultivating office culture, as an introvert, he meditates, or simply “stares at a wall for an hour” to relax and recharge.
Ben credits his time in the Navy and the principles he learned there to cultivate the culture of Reelio. Reelio employees need to possess goal-getting attitude and are expected to deliver results no matter what. At the same time, they are not being micro-managed. They have freedom to operate, try new approaches and be creative. These aren’t just Ben’s words. I spoke with other employees at Reelio who reported being extremely passionate about their job and very happy with the culture at Reelio.
After my experience learning about Reelio. I’m not surprised the company had many suitors. Congratulations to the Reelio and Fullscreen team!