Influencers are redefining modern celebrity. Marienor Madrilejo, talent agent at Abrams Artists Agency, and Ivy Wong, CEO of VS Media spoke with VidCon Asia about this burgeoning segment.

Hello Marienor and Ivy. Can we start by hearing a little bit about the work you do at your company?

Marienor Madrilejo: I work in the digital branding and licensing division for Abrams Artists Agency. The majority of our roster includes high net worth influencers and celebrities who have a digital footprint or following. 

What we do is hone in and understand who that audience base is, and what kind of business we can build with that. We approach every talent with a custom game plan based on who they are, what they do and what they are great at. Then we figure out how to build a business from there. 

Ivy Wong: At VS Media, we only sign with creators who have the capability to create content, and not just ‘talent’ who can act. Once we sign a potential creator, we focus on four things. 

First, we dig out the real passion, talents and future goals of our creators. Next, we develop a production plan to help them to produce content regularly with their own style. We also provide facilities, production team support, and content production funding.

The third step is distribution. We sign distribution partnership agreements with all major platforms in China (like Tencent, Weibo, Bytedance, Bilibili, Baidu, Alibaba) and outside of China (Facebook, IG, Youtube, Yahoo! TV, Line TV), so we can help our creators to easily distribute their content to various platforms. 

Lastly we help our creators to monetise through platform advertising share, branded content deals, endorsement, production partnership, live streaming and eCommerce. 

How are successful influencers building audiences today? What does best practice look like?  

Marienor Madrilejo: I find that brands and creators who have content that is less polished, more raw, and really just themselves are taking off at the moment. Their audience is more captivated and connected to that influencer because they are open and honest about who they are, their imperfections or any trials and tribulations they can communicate with their audience. Influencers who have a strong relationship like that are the most successful because they have a more emotional connection to their audience. 

Ivy Wong: Best practice means having a constant supply of content to keep the freshness and engagement with audiences. Creators need to keep their own passion and style and show their real self. It’s also key to connect with audiences through answering posts and attending fans gatherings and similar events.  

You work with some incredible talent. Who have been the most inspirational people you’ve worked with, and why? 

Marienor Madrilejo: Nabela Noor stands out. She is a Bangaldeshi Muslim plus-size beauty influencer who always had a vision of what she wanted. That vision helped me understand the road I needed to pave with her. With any brand partnership or campaign we do, it always includes her message of positivity and inclusivity. She is a beauty activist, has spoken at the United Nations, and has launched her own clothing line embracing body inclusivity. Her brand is all about promoting a new inclusive community. 

Ivy Wong: Jeremy Jauncey, Founder and CEO of Beautiful Destinations. Jeremy is a successful entrepreneur who is challenging the old travel media companies. He is also passionate about travel, wellness, and environmental protection, and is a Global Ambassador for WWF. On top of being a successful entrepreneur, he has over three million fans globally, which makes him an influential creator. You can catch him at VidCon too. 

Managing Jeremy is so different from managing a normal creator, as he is actually a successful entrepreneur. So we need to reposition, to make sure his content aligns with his true passions and capabilities, and brands understand who he really is and work with him on a different level. 

Branded content is changing rapidly. Can you tell me about an innovative recent campaign you’re particularly proud of?

Marienor Madrilejo: This year we worked with MAC Cosmetics, which had a big push highlighting its augmented reality (AR) features on its website. We thought that was really new and different. MAC Cosmetics have been taking advantage of these new features using AR and were also one of the first to use Instagram shoppable features. I know they are very forward-thinking and we’re fortunate to work with them. The most recent MAC Cosmetics AR campaign involved two of my clients, animation dancer Dytoo, and beauty / lifestyle influencer SoothingSista. 

Ivy Wong: Can I use Jeremy again? Jeremy worked with Beijing Tourism Board, HKL and Mandarin Oriental in Beijing to promote Beijing to local Chinese. Instead of just creating a corporate video, we create an itinerary of Jeremy to provide A Glimpse of Beijing – a branded video plus a photo exhibition.  

A normal tourism video just showcase destinations, but we decided to go further by including shopping experiences, hotel experiences and dining recommendations.  

It is a new style for tourism boards to co-produce content with commercial organisations – it provides a more genuine feeling for audiences. 

What advice do you give to aspiring influencers today? How do you help them successfully monetise their businesses?

Marienor Madrilejo: It’s important to have a strong sense of self and what you do. With the influencer market so saturated, there are a lot of brands and influencers trying to make money. You have to be well defined and strong willed when paving a path for yourself. This helps you develop your voice, your brand and build your celebrity. 

There are endless ways to monetise a business – we can build a brand, product, retail distribution, even an animated series or performance-based opportunities. But you need to know who you want to be, because nobody can be everything. Having that idea helps us build a meaningful business. 

Ivy Wong: Be true to yourself and make it a full time career. And don’t give up. Any creator that has an engaging and loyal fanbase, even a small one, can monetise. There are many monetisation methods creators can explore – things like virtual gifting and social commerce are flourishing in China, for instance, even if they haven’t caught on in the rest of the world yet. 

Marienor Madrilejo and Ivy Wong are speaking at the inaugural VidCon Asia Summit on 3-4 December in Singapore. Meet them and other industry leaders. Tickets are on sale now.