Horizon’s Blue Hour social shop partners with platform Key to launch talent management tool

Horizon Media’s social content agency Blue Hour Studios and talent management platform Key are partnering to develop a talent platform called Swell Audience Network, Digiday has learned.

The Swell Audience Network aims to integrate data insights and help brands work with all different types talent, from celebrities to influencers, and manage their audiences programmatically. Increasingly, agencies and influencer agencies alike are building tools and partnerships in order to match brands and influencers — often using artificial intelligence and data-focused applications as a means to sort accurately through an expanding sea of options.

From the agency perspective, adding measurement injects a vital element to justifying their clients’ investments, including showing metrics like awareness or conversions, said Sarah Bachman, head of Blue Hour Studios, a Horizon affiliate formed in 2019.

“From a creative standpoint, [we have] always been starved for really data-focused recommendations on talent selection, and ultimately amplification of the content that we are creating,” said Bachman.

As more talent, creators, influencers and celebrities grow their audiences and seek out influencer marketing opportunities with brands, Blue Hour and Key say it is getting more complex to manage all the various platforms and measure effectiveness with an omnichannel approach. It also means the role of agencies is expanding, as they develop more specific expertise and add client services. Some of that entails discovery and management of the talent, negotiation and other business consultancy services around influencer marketing programs.

“Brands are shifting their focus toward fewer, better long-term partnerships rather than short-term, one-off deals,” said Shea Carter, vp of social and influencer at social agency Social Element. “The agency acts as the connecting force between creators and the brand, playing a crucial role in program facilitation.”

Evan Wayne, CEO and founder of Key, said the Swell Audience Network will try to address challenges around segmented audiences — and incorporate working with talent using omnichannel, integrated marketing. Talent is viewed like its own brand around which customer relationship management is built, Wayne explained. Fans and followers of the talent can be tapped in multiple ways — going beyond social — through the platform’s vertical markets including health and wellness, fashion, sports, music and others.

“We always found that the industry is super fragmented in terms of audience selection,” Wayne said. “If someone selects a talent to be featured within a creative execution, and be a brand ambassador — that’s a wonderful social execution, but that doesn’t necessarily live in the programmatic world, as well.”

Some of the data the platform provides can include audience insights, demographic, income and geolocation — along with third-party analytics like what people buy and where they eat. So for the talent, which often already has a wealth of first-party data, it’s possible to segment their audiences and create activations to reach specific consumers. For example, they could filter for interests in reality television shows, certain ages, tequila brands — and the platform would identify the matching talent.

“You can build that cohort and run it programmatically,” Wayne said.

Swell also offers a way to go back to clients and project the performance of their work, show return and use it to give stronger recommendations, Bachman added. Clients also get custom scorecards through Swell’s data and that include pricing, diversity and other metrics that the agency uses to make talent recommendations.

“The world that we work in is often subjective, in terms of evaluating who we work with,” Bachman said. “[There is a lot of] conversation and feedback between us and clients and different teams talking about whether or not talents are appropriate for a brand activation — so we’re trying to route some of that into a data-driven conversation.”

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