Viacom Acquires Whosay, Influencer-Marketing Firm Incubated by CAA

Viacom has acquired influencer-marketing company Whosay, in a bid to bulk up its ability to sell social-media campaigns to advertisers and brands.

Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. Whosay was founded in 2010 by CEO Steve Ellis (pictured above) and CAA, originally as a media company based on an invitation-only social network for celebrities. Today, New York-based Whosay functions as a creative-marketing agency that develops and produces branded content with talent ranging from “micro-influencers” to big-name celebs.

Viacom has worked closely with Whosay for more than two years, executing more than 50 campaigns. Sean Moran, Viacom’s head of sales, said that by buying Whosay the entertainment conglomerate can more deeply integrate its social expertise across the sales and marketing organization and augment the work of the Viacom Velocity branded-content group.

“From a social standpoint, while we’ve had some excellent work there, it’s really been focused around our tentpoles like the MTV VMAs,” Moran said. “One of the reasons we’re so excited about Whosay is, this instantly puts us into a 52-week capability to deliver social solutions [to advertising clients] with curated scale.”

Whosay had raised about $30 million in funding from investors including Comcast Ventures, CAA, Greylock Partners, Amazon.com, High Peaks Ventures, and China’s Tencent. Its range of services include campaign strategy, influencer talent vetting and casting, content production, distribution and performance guarantees. The company also offers in-store and point-of-sale activations for clients.

All told, Whosay has run more than 400 campaigns that have generated over 5 billion impressions and 900 million-plus user engagements, according to the company. It distributes content across multiple platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.

Recent Whosay campaigns have featured Vanessa Williams for Aveeno; Darren Criss for AT&T; Tia Mowry for Oreo; Alec Baldwin for Chevrolet; Brynn Rumfallo (“Dance Moms”) for Pantene; Finn Wolfhard (“Stranger Things”) for Hellmann’s; Christian Navarro (“13 Reasons Why”) for McDonald’s; and former NFL players DeMarcus Ware and Emmitt Mmith for Dr Pepper and Kingsford.

Whosay’s Ellis said his company doesn’t operate a “network” of influencers. Instead, it creates custom content from scratch — from concept through to enlisting talent and distributing the finished product. “Our mission has been trying to improve the marketing experience on a mobile phone,” he said.

With Whosay, Viacom will be able to create campaigns built around Viacom intellectual property, Moran said, including show talent as well as characters like SpongeBob SquarePants. Whosay also will help Viacom’s new digital studios unit under president Kelly Day — who came on board last fall from AwesomenessTV — in monetizing short-form content, he said.

As part of Viacom, Whosay will remain in its current offices in New York and L.A. operating as an independent organization collaborating with Viacom’s Marketing & Partner Solutions group. Whosay has 72 employees, who will remain with the company under Viacom’s ownership.

Ellis, before starting Whosay, was founder and CEO of Pump Audio, a digital music-rights company acquired in 2007 by Getty Images.

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