AT&T is going to prioritize mobile video in 2016 as it looks to reach a younger audience.
The company is working with Fullscreen to create Hello Lab, a yearlong project featuring 10 digital and social influencers that will result in new video series as well as podcasts, concerts, meetups and giveaways.
These pieces of content will have a distinct emphasis on mobile -- the influencers themselves will be creating their content by using their phones as mobile production studios.
Fullscreen, a digital video company that manages a network of thousands of social and digital creators' channels on Snapchat, YouTube and other platforms, has been working with AT&T since 2012. (In 2014, Otter Media, a venture between AT&T and the Chernin Group, bought a majority stake in Fullscreen.)
For marketers, companies like Fullscreen offer a stable of content-makers with massive built-in audiences of younger people that are not reached the same way their older counterparts are, like through traditional TV advertising.
So far Hello Lab has signed video star Grace Helbig; travel duo Damon and Jo, who post much of their content on YouTUbe; Vine music stars Us the Duo; magician Collins Key; former NBA player turned Instagram comedian Brandon Armstrong; and Snapchat superstar Shaun McBride (also known as Shonduras).
AT&T has dabbled in this sort of marketing before, but the deal marks a new era and commitment to reaching younger consumers, said Liz Nixon, director-emerging and social media marketing at AT&T Mobility.
The first project from AT&T and Fullscreen was "@SummerBreak," an unscripted, YouTube-based series now prepping for its fourth season that has racked up 150 million views. Another project, "SnapperHero," a scripted superhero series on SnapChat begun last summer, 186,000 followers in its first 10 weeks, AT&T said.
"The biggest difference is for us versus what we did before is that now we're is doubling down on the commitment," said Ms. Nixon. "This is a pivot point in the company's history where we're putting a big emphasis on entertainment and connecting with this younger generation," she added, noting that their target is 18-to-24 year olds. Though the project for now is scheduled for a year, it's possible it will last beyond that, she said.
Another goal is to deliver something much broader than the typical branded series, offering podcasts and the influencers' fans the opportunities to have in-person meetings. "We're trying to broaden the scope in terms of how these influencers typically work," Ms. Nixon said. "It's more than just video."
Billy Parks, senior VP at Fullscreen, called the deal the biggest commitment Fullscreen has from a marketer. Advertisers often work on one branded content series or another piece of branded entertainment, but not 10 influencers over the course of a year. "We're making sure it's an extension of who the influencers are, and are really able to tell a great brand story," he said. "AT&T is not dabbling, they are really making a commitment."
The first Hello Lab series, which will start in March, is Damon and Jo's "Dare to Travel," a fan-driven travel show where the audience participates by offering suggestions. Starting this week, the duo will use social media to seek recommendations on things to do in the cities they visit. They'll also post challenges on Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter that Mr. Parks said will connect fans to the pair throughout filming.
Instead of using a Fodor's guide book like travelers have in the past, Damon and Jo will be searching hashtags like #Portland for information and guide book-like suggestions from their fans. Episodes will post weekly on their YouTube channel.
The projects by the nine other influencers will be announced later on.
Ms. Helbig, one of the more established influencers working on the project, said in a statement that AT&T was taking the time to figure out what mattered to young people. "They're putting faith into a girl that talks to a camera alone in sweatpants," she said. "They get it."