Coty Acquires Content Agency Beamly As It Gears Up for P&G Deal

Creative and Analytics Shop Will Continue Work With Outside Clients

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Coty has agreed to purchase content-marketing agency Beamly for an undisclosed sum to bolster its in-house creative and analytics capabilities as it gears up to close its big acquisition of beauty brands from Procter & Gamble Co.

London-based Beamly has been working with Coty in recent months and will continue to do so, but the plan is for it to continue working with a wide range of outside clients too, said Camillo Pane, exec VP-category development of Coty.

"It keeps the edginess, the competitiveness, so they'll keep learning, keep being challenged, not just on our brands," Mr. Pane said. "It will bring new knowledge into Coty as well."

One motivation for the deal is gearing up to take on the P&G brands, which include CoverGirl, Clairol, Wella and such prestige fragrances as Hugo Boss, Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci, Mr. Pane said. Coty brands also include OPI nail polish, Rimmel cosmetics and CK One fragrance.

"It's important to step up our capabilities," he said, noting the P&G deal will roughly double Coty's headcount and sales to around 20,000 and $10 billion, respectively.

Beamly adds another 61 employees, and the deal won't mean replacing or crowding out other Coty agencies, he said.

"We have several partners," he said. "We have spoken to them, explained what we've done and why. I think the role of Beamly will be complementary. Now, they will take a lot of our spending, especially in the social area. But by no means will it be the only agency. Having a variety of partners is very important to keep the richness of the thinking and the support."

Beamly's prior investors included Comcast/NBC Universal, Viacom and Sky U.K. "Part of why they originally invested was our ability to take content from any one of their brands and actually make it more engaging in social," said Beamly CEO Jason Forbes.

Clients include media properties Bravo, CBS, AOL and Huffington Post, though Beamly works in a variety of other industries.

Mr. Pane cited the deal as an example of Coty's "faster, further, freer" mindset – and the speed is notable. Mr. Pane, a veteran of RB (Reckitt Benckiser) like Coty Chairman-Interim CEO Bart Becht, arrived at Coty three months ago, around the time the P&G deal was announced. He started brand tests working with Beamly two months ago, and is buying the agency now.

Beamly's website describes "What we do" as: "create engaging, shareable, social content. Then we use our proprietary tech to optimize advertising creatives, audience targeting and spend. This end-to-end managed service delivers conversions at market-leading low costs."

"In reality, cost effectiveness didn't play a big role," in the deal, Mr. Pane said.

Still, Mr. Forbes said Beamly delivers cost per click "nine times lower than marketplace norms," based on experience with more than 10,000 campaigns to date.

Beyond enhancing Coty's abilities in creating content for distribution in social media or on its websites, Mr. Pane expects what Beamly learns from consumer engagement with content to inform creative development for TV and other traditional media.

Beamly's suite of services and software includes four modules. One, named Radar, scans content using natural language processing connected to a proprietary database "to inform how you might want to speak about a brand or specific topic," Mr. Forbes said. Another, "Booster," provides real-time media optimization.

Perhaps the most unique, he said, is "Engager," a "set of embeddable experiences that can live on any dot-com site." It's built on the notion that "likes" and "favorites" are more plentiful than Facebook posts and tweets. Focusing on such "frictionless contributions" helps Beamly to drive engagement rates with content on brand websites averaging 25% vs. the industry norm of 1%-2%, he said. Those clicks in turn generate collection of e-mail addresses or purchase intent, which he said will in turn help Coty build its e-commerce business.

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