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WME Invests in Influential, Plans to Use Startup’s Social-Data Platform for Branded-Content Deals

WME is looking to use Influential’s real-time data-crunching platform to help broker new branded-content pacts for its roster of talent clients — and the agency has made a minority investment in the startup as well.

The companies have struck a commercial partnership under which Influential and WME will be co-selling sponsorships to brands and advertising agencies, using Influential’s proprietary technology and data. WME will be the initial beta partner for Influential’s new offering, Talent Pro, which uses contextual searching, demographic insights, artificial-image recognition, and content alerts to help WME manage its talent base.

In addition, WME will be using Influential’s AI paid-media product, called Influential Target, to interpolate first- and third-party data to amplify endorsement deals on social media based on criteria including purchasing behavior, TV data, location and weather data.

“This whole partnership came about as we had been thinking a lot about the future of the commercial-endorsement business we do for talent clients, both on influencer side and very much on the traditional side,” said Chris Jacquemin, WME’s head of digital. “I was interested in how technology would impact that side of our business, and we set out to do this in a more dynamic, data-driven way.”

WME, in addition to the strategic partnership, also is participating in Influential’s Series B investment round; the companies declined to disclose the amount of the investment. To date, Influential has raised $24.5 million in funding. Investors include Paradigm Talent Agency, ECA Ventures, Capital Zed, and Plug and Play Ventures. The startup expects its Series B round to close within the next few weeks.

After conducting due diligence among social-analytics players, WME determined that Influential has engineered “a perfect place for brands and talent to ultimately find each other, in a pretty compelling way,” Jacquemin said. “It struck us that there’s nothing really like this out there.” Influential’s partnership with WME is not exclusive to the talent agency.

Influential’s platform can identify, say, a WME client who may have a smaller audience but “may be spot-on perfect for a given brand,” said Jacquemin. WME uses more than 50 different data resources as part of managing its business, but the Influential partnership will give it a “powerful” data as part of the agency’s negotiations with advertisers and agencies, he added.

“This really is exactly how we see the future of commercial endorsement,” Jacquemin said. WME decided to invest in Influential after the initial commercial partnership: “We wanted to play a role in that disruption.”

Ryan Detert, CEO of Influential, said the company feeds billions of data points into its system from sources including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. The company has a partnership with IBM Watson’s artificial-intelligence division to process that data.

WME has a “stellar track record of success as the entertainment industry’s leading agency,” Detert said. “WME is an ideal partner in helping us identify incremental media spends and deliver the greatest ROI [return on investment] to our brand and agency partners.”

Detert declined to disclose specifics of Influential’s finances, but said the company generates “eight figures” of annual revenue at this point (i.e., more than $10 million). The Las Vegas-based company, founded in 2013, has about 80 full-time employees. Its core customers are brands and ad agencies.

Pictured above: Ryan Detert, CEO of Influential

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