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Startup Mozaic Branding Aims to Broker Branded-Content Deals for YouTube Stars

Mozaic Branding, a startup led by former Maker Studios exec Fran Solomita, has set up shop to steer more Madison Avenue branded-content deals to top YouTube creators.

Solomita, most recently VP of branded entertainment at Disney’s Maker Studios, said Mozaic’s approach will be to proactively work as matchmaker between brands and YouTubers, instead of trying to force-fit a marketer’s campaign with a given multichannel network’s roster of talent.

“Marketers can’t just shoehorn their branding into this content. There has to be a way to get the message across organically,” Solomita said. “We’ve seen good executions and bad. The idea is to up the average.”

That said, Mozaic also could work with MCNs on specific campaigns. “We’re MCN-agnostic,” Solomita said. While at Maker, according to Solomita, he oversaw branded-content deals with advertisers including Quaker Oats, PepsiCo, Discover and Universal Pictures.

Mozaic, based in L.A. and New York, is self-funded by the principals. Along with Solomita, the founding partners are: COO Mike Bienstock, founder of financial-advisory firm Semaphore, who negotiated Discovery Communications’ acquisition of Phil DeFranco’s YouTube channel; chief strategy officer Peter Bray, most recently director of digital at Saatchi & Saatchi; chief creative officer Todd Grossman, a writer/director/producer and former X Games athlete; and CFO Nate Higgins, co-founder of Semaphore with Bienstock.

“In the past, brands dictated what they wanted the talent to do,” Bienstock said. “Now the brands are starting to say, ‘Let’s have a conversation about that.’ The talent knows their audience better than anyone, so having the brands acknowledge that changes the game.”

To reach younger demos, marketers increasingly have been sponsoring content featuring digital stars.

Target, for example, is running an campaign this summer targeted at college-bound kids built around branded videos on its YouTube channel from creators including Todrick Hall, Ann Le and Tiffany Garcia. And last week, Old Navy kicked off a musical back-to-school campaign, produced with DreamWorks Animation’s AwesomenessTV and songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The campaign features appearances by YouTubers including Jennxpenn, Kingsley, Miranda Sings, Hunter March, Josh Levi, Mystery Guitar Man and Thats0jack.

“Million-dollar slick commercials are no longer resonating with consumers under 30,” Bienstock said. “We are at the dawn of a massive shift in the way brands connect with consumers.”

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