Brands can pay for Snapchat filters, but, due to the fleeting nature of Snapchat content, they can't necessarily get an influencer to mention them or co-create content with them. Enter Kevin Jonas, a celebrity who's already connected to influential people on Snapchat, among other platforms, and who has a history of connecting brands with digital influencers, including himself.
Engine Group is looking to capitalize on Mr. Jonas' following, and his business acumen, by absorbing Ambassador Exchange, a shop set up by Mr. Jonas and adland vet Sean Finnegan that connects brands and influencers who then co-create content. The duo will work with a team of dedicated staffers from Engine to scale the new offering, called Co/star.
"He's going to help us in many ways forge relationships with influencers as the needs arise," said Ian Schafer, CEO of Deep Focus, which is owned by Engine. "Another thing he brings is expertise on platforms like Snapchat. It's been one of those black boxes as it relates to influencers. There's a discovery problem. We'd run influencer campaigns on Snapchat, but we wouldn't know where to find them. And Kevin knows them."
Mr. Finnegan will be managing director, reporting into Mr. Schafer. Mr. Jonas will play a prominent role in providing strategic direction to brands, driving business development and identifying influencers on digital and social networks.
Both Mr. Schafer and Mr. Finnegan insist that Mr. Jonas will be involved in the day-to-day business. He had helped his father with negotiations, contracts and sponsorships when he and his brothers were on tour as a band, said Mr. Finnegan. "When the band broke up, Kevin took a hard right into the business world."
Business experience aside, it also doesn't hurt that he's "of the same age as the target demo we are reaching in social outlets," added Mr. Finnegan.
Mr. Jonas has an undisclosed stake in the new group, which will not be about paying influencers per post, Mr. Schafer insisted.
"This is about content. It's not about paying people to write a blog post," said Mr. Schafer. "Some [platforms] hold the promise of being able to buy influencers programmatically in the same way you'd buy display advertising. Because these are scale plays, it's hard to make great content collaboratively at scale."
The idea is to make content at scale that works for both brand and influencer. For example, Co/star may create a series of videos featuring an influencer experiencing a product for the first time or sharing their common sustainability values.
Ambassador Exchange was already doing that on a small scale, inspired by an early effort in which Mr. Jonas and his wife worked with Procter & Gamble to produce digital videos featuring their new baby. "It wasn't overly commercialized," said Mr. Finnegan. "It gave us the model and the direction and guidance with which to replicate."
For Mr. Schafer, the new group is a natural pair with DFX, a year-old Deep Focus media spinoff that connects brands with publishers to co-create and buy media content.
"We'll take learnings form that and apply it to working with individuals," he said. "This is about ensuring creative integrity on both sides."