The French have a great expression: “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” (the more that changes, the more stays the same). Over the past eighteen months, H has changed more than I could have possibly imagined – from a creative agency to a tech platform, from my kitchen table to an office in the city, from a few creative friends to a small army of creators, 30,000 strong. But, the faster we grow, the truer our founding mantra rings: “creators first, no matter what”.
Marketing has always been about attention arbitrage. That is, brands syphoning attention from underpriced, unsuspecting consumer eyeballs. That’s what an ad is: a carefully calculated, branded, disruption to whatever you were watching, reading or listening to.
When enough brands steal enough attention, the consumer eyeballs shift to a new frontier. Then the brands chase them. Then the eyeballs shift again. It’s a tale as old as time and it’s a major reason why consumer attention has shifted from the radio to TV to the internet to social media. A telling statistic: the biggest spike in Twitter usage each week occurs during the TV breaks of nationally televised sporting events. In other words, when the “ice cold Rockies” appear on the big screen, our eyes migrate to the little one. In other, other, words, we are tired of brands stealing our attention on TV so we shift our gaze to better content; the kind we absorb on our phones.
Like clockwork, brands are shifting their spend from TV (where our eyeballs are not) to social media (where our eyeballs are). “Influencers” or social media users with large followings, are the newest, underpriced ad unit. They can reach their XX,XXX followers cheaply and, most importantly, with heightened authenticity. In this way, influencers are both the ad unit AND the quality, tailor-made ad content by which the unit is filled.
Spend on “Influencer Marketing” has doubled every year for the past four years. And, as the skyscraper barrels towards the sky, brands, influencers, and the platforms that introduce them are following the same playbook of old – chasing the arbitrage by treating influencers as underpriced ad space, NOT as creative directors.
That’s why we created H. We know, first hand, that brands are only getting half the value out of influencers. We know that influencers are creators, first.
That insight has guided us, these past eighteen months to empower creators and forego revenue. We do this by hosting hundreds of meetups, panels, private dinners, and trips. We do this by distributing thousands of our branded hats, and hand-painted-jackets. And we do this by helping tens of thousands of young creators connect with each other and with brands.
We do this because we are creators. We do this because we care. But most, we do this because it’s a massive business opportunity. Surrounded by a cutting-edge industry following hundred-year-old playbook, we have an opportunity to be different.
In an ecosystem marked by vapid endorsements of two-bit products (hi, Diet Detox Tea), we stand for creativity and connectivity. Whereas competitor platforms keep their creators in spreadsheets, we set ours free and allow them to rub elbows and cross-pollinate.
The result is happier, healthier creators. The result is unprecedented data on how they interact. The result is our vibrant community. As the world of Influencer Marketing spins madly around us, enticing brands, platforms and influencers to “sell out”, we are resolved to stay true to our first promise “creators first, no matter what”.