Hollywood is betting large on TikTok expertise in bid to woo Gen Z

In this photo illustration a TikTok logo seen displayed on a smartphone with stock market percentages in the background.

SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

When TikTok creator Boman Martinez-Reid first got an email from Creative Artists Agency he ignored it. As an Ontario native, he saw the acronym CAA and assumed it was CAA Insurance, a major car insurance company in Canada.

It was only after a TikTok representative contacted him that he realized he was being courted by one of Hollywood’s top talent agencies.

“I get a [direct message] from a guy at TikTok and he says let’s talk on the phone,” Martinez-Reid recalled. “So, we had a phone call and he asked me ‘I know that CAA has been reaching out to you. Do you know who they are? They represent Beyonce, Meryl Streep, you have to get on the phone with them.'”

Martinez-Reid, known online as “Bomanizer,” has more than 1.5 million followers and a budding career that includes a guest appearance on “Canada’s Drag Race” and a line of branded merchandise. While he rose to TikTok fame making reality show spoof videos, the 24-year-old has aspirations beyond the social media platform. He signed with CAA in July 2020.

Martinez-Reid is part of a growing list of content creators that have signed with traditional talent agencies, including dancer Charli D’Amelio, actress Addison Rae and the creators of the viral TikTok series “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical,” Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear.

These artists have been tapped because of their talent, but also because of their engagement with online communities. These entrepreneurs have built large and loyal followings on the short-form video app, something talent managers and agents from traditional Hollywood firms see as a potential gold mine.

Not only can these agencies help build mini-media empires around these creators, they also can benefit from the strategies these digital influencers use, and apply it to bolster the careers of the agencies’ already established clients.

Actor Will Smith, who is repped by CAA, is just one example of an A-list celebrity who has embraced social media, including TikTok and YouTube, in recent years as a way to promote his content and to promote himself.

“Will recognized four or five years ago that young audiences are consuming media in a much different way,” said David Freeman, co-head of the CAA’s digital media division. “Will understood that he had to shift and change the way that he was interacting with his audience.”

This pivotal audience, which ranges in age from six to around 25, is known as Gen Z and is one of the most sought after consumer bases for companies. Not only is this young generation coming of age as consumers, but they are also driving major trends for older generations, said Jason Dorsey, president of the Center for Generational Kinetics, a research and strategic advisory firm.

“This makes this younger set of trendsetters overly valuable,” he said.

This generation is not just impacting entertainment, but apparel, food, technology and bigger social conversations, he said. 

“As Gen Z comes up, they really are the best predictor of the future,” Dorsey said. “Smart brands are trying to figure out how you connect with them in a sincere way. … If you win Gen Z, you can win everyone else.”

Embracing Gen Z

Dorsey noted that many brands missed out on connecting with the millennial generation because they dismissed this demographic’s adoption of mobile devices and social media and believed that this group of young consumers would return to the traditions of previous generations.

“That didn’t happen,” he said.

While the millennial generation adopted the internet and a mobile-first mentality, Gen Z has never known a time that they could not do almost everything they needed to do on a mobile device, said Connor Blakley, a marketing consultant and Gen Z expert.

“Everyone always says that Gen Z has a six- to eight-second attention span,” he said. “What that is is just a really good ‘BS meter’ for different kinds of information so that we can pick the thing that we really want to spend time on.”

Blakley, who is a member of Gen Z himself, has advised companies like Pepsi, Johnson & Johnson and the National Hockey League on social media marketing strategies. He noted that Gen Z is a generation that can easily discern when people and companies are being disingenuous.

“That’s why you are seeing talent agencies, marketing agencies, influencer agencies, all kinds of branding agencies going to TikTok because that is the place where Gen Z already is,” Dorsey added. “If you want to reach them, you have to go to where they are because you have virtually zero chance of getting them to where you are.”

TikTok, in particular, has been a place for talent agencies to cull new talent because of its rapid rise to popularity and the viral nature of its content. In fact, TikTok was the most popular website in 2021, surpassing even Google, according to data from Cloudflare, a web security and performance company.

The social media app, which launched internationally in 2017, rose to prominence in 2018, but really gained traction with consumers in late 2019 and during the coronavirus pandemic.

Movie theaters were shuttered, productions of popular TV shows were halted and the rate at which content was being released to the public slowed considerably. With so many people stuck at home, many turned to alternatives like TikTok for entertainment.

“Suddenly there was a pandemic,” Martinez-Reid said. “Everyone was stuck inside. I had nothing to do but to make content and everyone else had nothing to do but to watch content.”

Boman Martinez-Reid, known on TikTok as “Bomanizer,” is a content creator who was signed by talent agency CAA in July 2020.

Boman Martinez-Reid

For Martinez-Reid, TikTok was a creative outlet. He was one semester away from graduating from Ryerson University’s RTA Media Production program when the social media platform began to gain popularity. So, he decided to try his hand at content production.

“What do I have to lose? If I post something and it does well, great. If it does poorly, then no one will know,” he said.

His first TikTok was posted in December 2019 and centered around Martinez-Reid having a conversation with his last two brain cells about joining the social media platform.

“I was just basically shooting for this like overproduced, super scripted, try hard kind of edge, which at the time was not a thing on TikTok,” he said. “And I think that’s why my content started to do so well, because I started to get this comment that was like ‘I can’t believe that this is a TikTok’ and from then on it sort of just snowballed into more and more opportunities.”

Martinez-Reid has become known for his reality show spoof videos in which, alongside family and friends, he pokes fun at how cast members often get into feuds over the small things. He said that during the pandemic, while people were stuck inside, they could relate to tiny little frustrations bubbling over into big arguments.

While Martinez-Reid has yet to break into Hollywood, he’s used his relationship with CAA to meet with casting directors and story producers at various networks over the last 18 months. His goal is to gain more knowledge about the industry so he can make more strategic decisions about what projects he wants to sign on for in the future.

But there is a path for Martinez-Reid, one that was first forged more than a decade ago by content creators on YouTube and the now defunct video platform Vine.

‘Talent is talent’

Over the last decade, CAA has helped content creators from nontraditional platforms make the transition to Hollywood. The group reps Tyler Blevins, aka Ninja, who rose to fame streaming himself playing video games. While Blevins continues to play video games professionally, he has also participated in Fox’s “The Masked Singer” and had a cameo appearance in Disney’s “Free Guy.”

The talent agency also represents Arif Zahir, who gained notoriety for his impressions posted on YouTube, and now voices Cleveland Brown on Fox’s “Family Guy.”

Other notable celebrities that have risen from this space include CAA-signed Justin Bieber, who was discovered by Usher and Scooter Braun and became a Grammy Award-winning artist; Liza Koshy, who also signed with CAA and now voices Zipp Storm on the “My Little Pony: A New Generation” TV show; and Bo Burnham, who is represented by United Talent Agency, went from making comedy YouTube videos, to writing, directing and starring in top Hollywood films.

“Talent is talent,” said Frank Jung, who launched CAA’s digital media division almost a decade ago alongside Freeman. “If they are an amazing talent, that’s just number one.”

TikTok is still a relatively new platform and has yet to produce the same number of Hollywood success stories as YouTube has in the last decade, but experts predict it won’t be long until its making a mark on the film and television industry.

Already we’ve seen the rise of Addison Rae, 21, who secured a multimillion dollar deal with Netflix in September after starring in the streamer’s film “He’s All That,” a sequel to 1999’s “She’s All That.” She is represented by William Morris Endeavor Entertainment and currently has more than 86 million followers on TikTok.

And, of course, Charli D’Amelio, 17, who touts a following more than 133 million strong on the social media platform, has partnered with brands like hummus maker Sabra, Procter & Gamble and Dunkin and now has her own docuseries on Hulu. D’Amelio is repped by UTA.

Then there is Maggie Thurmon, who rose to fame on the social media app dancing and performing circus tricks with her father Dan. The 19-year-old was signed by UTA in February 2020 before she hit 1 million followers on the platform.

Now, she has more than 5 million followers, a popular podcast called “Mags and Dad’s Wholesome Chaos” and just wrapped her first feature film “The Other Zoey,” which features Andie MacDowell and Heather Graham.

“I’m auditioning at the moment,” Thurmon told CNBC just hours after finishing up on set. “I’m so excited for the possibilities of acting in the future. If I can do this for the rest of my life, I would just be the happiest person on the planet.”

Thurmon said she was “greatly surprised” when she announced to her TikTok following earlier this month that she would be pursuing acting alongside her burgeoning social media career.

“I prepared for the backlash,” she said. “But I did not find one negative comment on the TikTok announcement or Instagram post.”

Thurmon’s experience is not unique. “What we see is that Gen Z influencers on TikTok have built meaningful followings and have a built-in audience of fans that feel a personal connection to the creator and want to be more supportive,” Dorsey said. “They feel like that are going along with them on the project.”

That’s one reason these content creators have clout among Hollywood agencies looking to sign fresh talent.

‘Data is the new oil’

“The unique thing is not only being able to identify talent, but this talent already comes with a built-in audience,” CAA’s Freeman said. “Through social media and these platforms, there is a direct conversation that is happening between talent and audience.”

For Jung and Freeman, these audiences provide much needed data about what people want to consume for content and who they want to see make that content.

“Data is the new oil,” Jung said. “What we are trying to do is make sure we are amplifying these voices and eventually creating media businesses for the clients, which will leave lasting legacies.”

“And also everyone can make some money,” he added with a laugh.

Not only can these agencies help build mini-media empires around these creators, they also can benefit from the strategies these digital influencers use, and apply it to bolster the careers of the agencies’ already established clients.

Smith, who has been campaigning for a best actor nomination at this year’s Academy Awards for his role in Warner Bros.’ “King Richard,” is a prime example of a traditional CAA client who has used social media to jumpstart the next phase of his career.

Freeman said that much of the actor’s learnings and best practices came from Koshy, who taught him that his social media videos didn’t need to be perfect, well-produced videos, they just needed to be authentic and give audiences a peek behind the curtain into his life.

Smith started his own YouTube channel in 2017, posting vlog-style videos about his life alongside curated series. 2018’s “The Jump” focused on Smith’s preparation to bungee jump out of a helicopter over the Grand Canyon for his 50th birthday, while 2021’s “Best Shape of My Life” centered on the actor’s journey to improve his personal fitness.

More recently, he has posted videos of himself training alongside Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, quizzing his young costars from “King Richard” about his career and explaining how he went about recording his audiobook.

Actor Will Smith takes a selfie at the UK Premiere of “King Richard” at The Curzon Mayfair on November 17, 2021 in London, England.

Samir Hussein | WireImage | Getty Images

“His career was colder than it had been,” Dan Weinstein, of Underscore Talent, said. “I wouldn’t say it was nonexistent, but he was not the ‘Independence Day’ blockbuster draw he was. He found new audiences. He reinvented his persona around his celebrity. There’s no denying the fact that he is an insanely creative, talented, charismatic individual and he’s leveraging that to breathe new life into all of his endeavors.”

In the last five years, Smith has starred in major blockbusters like Warner Bros.’ “Suicide Squad” and Disney’s “Aladdin,” reestablishing himself as a force at the box office.

And Smith isn’t the only celebrity following this path. Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lopez and more have embraced social media as a way to connect with fans and promote their work.

Jung and Freeman’s digital media division of CAA has been devised as a place to meld the best practices of the traditional Hollywood model with the strategies of grassroots entrepreneurial content creators. In doing so, their team can take already established talent and reinvigorate their careers. They can also take up-and-coming talent, like Martinez-Reid, and build from an already sturdy foundation.

Martinez-Reid is still forging his path and CAA isn’t rushing him.

“That’s why I love CAA,” Martinez-Reid said. “Because they see me as a talented creator who will have a career. It’s not just about quick jobs. It’s about shaping what my next 10 years are going to look like.”

The N.F.L.’s New Play: Embrace Betting Advertisements, Watch the Cash Pour In

Betting has long been a part of the National Football League’s DNA. Two of its founding fathers, Art Rooney and Tim Mara, were gamblers.

Rooney funded the Pittsburgh Steelers’ early years with a small fortune won at the Saratoga Race Course. Mara, his close friend, was a bookmaker and bought it New York Giants for $ 500.

For decades, however, NFL officials have gone to great lengths to distance the league from the tens of billions of dollars wagered on its games – legal in Las Vegas, but also offshore sports betting, office and bar pools, and illegal bookmakers. the NFL supported the Law on the Prohibition and Enforcement of Unlawful Internet Gambling from 2006, battling efforts by New Jersey to allow its casinos and racecourses to accept bets on football games.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure our games aren’t betting vehicles,” Joe Browne, an NFL spokesman, told the New York Times in 2008.

“We have been accused of allowing gambling because it is good for the game’s popularity,” he added. “If that’s true, then we’ve wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on gambling on our games.”

What the NFL once sold as principled has recently given way to a far more pragmatic one. As football betting became a multibillion dollar industry and state by state traded to legalize it, the NFL faced a blatant choice: continue to combat gambling in its games, or in exchange for a substantial cut accept casino marketing dollars.

And the money that the league once spent on lobbying against gambling? This season the NFL is getting it all back. And then some.

On its opening weekend, celebrities like Ben Affleck, Martin Lawrence and Jamie Foxx made commercials that aired during NFL game broadcasts offering bets with a WynnBET, DraftKings, FanDuel or BetMGM account just a click away. The NFL Network added betting lines to its ticker for the first time.

Belated or not, the NFL’s acceptance of gambling is, well, lucrative. League and industry experts expect the revenue of the NFL and its teams from gambling companies to be several hundred million dollars this season.

“This will represent an opportunity of more than $ 1 billion for the league and our clubs over the next 10 years,” said Christopher Halpin, NFL chief strategy and growth officer

Just over three years after the Supreme Court a federal law struck down who have banned sports betting in most states, sports betting providers are finding eager audiences. GeoComply Solutions, a company that uses geolocation to confirm online gamblers are doing so from places where wagering is legal, said it processed 58.2 million transactions in the United States on the opening weekend of the NFL, more than double what it handled during the same weekend last season.

“We expected high numbers of units, but what we saw still surprised us,” says Lindsay Slader, Managing Director of GeoComply based in Canada. “Demand in new markets like Arizona shows that consumers have been waiting a long time for the opportunity to legally place a sports bet.”

The company said the bets came from 18 states and the District of Columbia. More states are likely to join soon.

New York has approved online betting and is in the process of determining which operators can accept bets. And sports betting moves are being considered in densely populated states like California, Texas and Florida, where sports betting providers are spending a lot of money to gain a foothold.

“You have to look at the price,” said Craig Billings, CEO of Wynn Interactive. “I think this will be the same market size as the US commercial casino industry, $ 40 billion or more annually.”

That’s why he hired Affleck as a director and lead actor alongside Shaquille O’Neal in an advertisement, and his company plans to spend more than $ 100 million on advertising during the NFL season.

“It’s important to be part of the in-game broadcast – it’s our favorite sport with a core audience of early adopters who made offshore bets,” said Billings. “It’s a gun shot that you have to take.”

WynnBET is hardly alone.

As of September 9 of this year, DraftKings’ spending on national television advertising had increased by 98 percent compared to the same period last year, while FanDuel’s spending more than doubled, according to estimates by research company iSpot.TV.

Overall, gambling companies spent $ 7.4 million on advertising in the first week of prime-time games, 9 percent more than during last year’s opening games on Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights, according to estimates by EDO, a platform for measuring TV advertising.

“The dollars are starting to add up,” said John Bogusz, executive vice president of Sports Sales and Marketing at CBS Sports.

The network saw an increase in advertising interest for NFL shows this year. Bogusz attributed “a good part” of the growth to sports betting advertising.

“Overall, volume has increased for all advertisers, but that has also helped,” he said. “I think it will keep growing.”

Dan Lovinger, NBC Sports Group’s executive vice president of advertising sales, said on a conference call that the surge in sports betting “is reminiscent of the opening of the fantasy category.”

In 2015, FanDuel and DraftKings spent millions flooding the airwaves with commercials to attract larger audiences to daily fantasy games where fans pay an entry fee to put together squads of real football players to compete against squads of other fantasy Line up players.

The flash worked. Somehow.

The campaigns drew customers and regulators alike, leading to complaints from viewers who grew tired of the repetitive advertising. Both companies spent fortunes on lawyers and lobbyists and went unscathed to focus on sports betting.

The average amount of actual game action during a three hour broadcast of an NFL game is approximately 11 minutes. Halpin said the league’s internal investigation showed that among fans ages 21 and older, about 20 percent were frequent sports bettors, who were mostly young and male, and that another 20 percent – mostly women over 55 – were “active Rejecting “were.

To bridge that sharp divide and convince those in the middle, the NFL decided to limit sports betting ads to one per quarter along with a prelude and half-time spot – a total of six per broadcast.

Talking directly about odds and spreads has also been largely avoided during the largest NFL game broadcasts.

“We have to avoid oversaturation of the game with sports betting talks or risk alienating the fans,” said Halpin. “My mom loves her NFL, but she doesn’t want gambling talk.”

White Sox Betting: The Sharp Cash Marketplace for July 4, 2021

The White socks and Detroit Tigers will wrap up a three-game weekend series on July 4th, and the first two games were highly rated. Chicago’s bats were against that in their previous series Minnesota twins, and that trend continued when they traveled to Motor City.

Even if the Tigers are still far behind the White Sox in the AL Central classification, they were an entertaining team and a personal competition favorite for me. Let’s break down the most attractive betting angle for the final game in this series.

The listed pitchers

Lucas Giolito (6-5, 3.84 ERA) will take the hill for the White Sox during this matinee game. In his last start against the Minnesota Twins, he was marked for three deserved runs and managed only one strikeout despite six innings. Nevertheless, he won the last time. If Giolito’s material isn’t what it should be on Sunday, he’ll have to expect more from his teammates, as they averaged 4.39 run support on his starts.

Rookie Matt Manning (1-2, 8.16 ERA) is called for the Detroit Tigers. It was disastrous on his last start against Cleveland, a 13-5 game in which Manning gave up nine deserved runs. He still has time to turn his season around but the early returnees are not promising. He hasn’t lasted more than 5 2⁄3 innings in the three games he started in 2021, but he managed to get 5.54 runs per game in support. If he can limit his mistakes against a dangerous White Sox lineup, there’s a good chance his team can handle the rest.

The hot hitters

The White Sox have been getting a lot of performance out of their seasoned players as well as their rookies lately. Although their winning streak ended 11-5 at Comerica Park on Saturday, the bats were impressive. The newcomers of infielder / outfielder Gavin Sheets and third baseman Jake Burger were silenced on Saturday, but otherwise they produced offensively. Last week, Sheets became the first Sox player to score at least one hit and RBI in each of his first four career games, while Burger had two hits on his debut.

In the game against Detroit on Saturday, the White Sox were able to develop an early lead thanks to Tim Anderson’s two doubles and two runs, Leury García’s two-run homer and the two RBIs from the great José Abreu. It would be easy to convince yourself that the White Sox’s last game was an aberration during a great, victorious baseball route.

The selection

For my money, I have to bypass the running total, which is currently 8.5 runs (-122). The Tigers are very unpredictable, and you never know if it will be one of their games that has three runs – or almost 20. I trust an exceptionally good line-up of the White Sox to take advantage of Matt Manning and knock him out early on in the game. If the Tigers’ staggering offense makes you pause, I would also recommend the White Sox Run Line bet (-1.5, -102).

Reporter’s Pocket book: Betting massive with public cash | Information, Sports activities, Jobs

Last week I wrote about a $ 25 million loan program administered by the West Virginia Economic Development Authority that has lost more than $ 24 million in the past 19 years.

The Legislative Reviewer’s report on the whole matter is pretty damned, but not surprising. I’ve had a couple of readers email me asking what the next steps are. Who are the names of those responsible? Will there be a forensic exam? Is someone going to be charged?

Unfortunately, this is a common story in the West Virginia government. The current leadership of the EDA can be excused as almost everything happened during the time of former Governors Bob Wise, Joe Manchin and Earl Ray Tomblin, but we will likely never see anyone from any previous EDA leadership charged with indictment.

I’m not sure if criminal charges are even justified. In summary, under a 2002 law, the Board of Treasury Investments, which is controlled by the State Treasurer’s Office, was able to lend the EDA $ 25 million for a loan program. The EDA then lent seven venture capital firms, who then invested money in companies in West Virginia.

The goal was simple: by investing in these companies, they would be successful and retain or hire more workers. Its success would result in a return on investment for the venture capital firms, who would then repay their loans to the EDA and then repay the $ 25 million loan to the BTI.

That never happened. Excluding interest payments, the EDA could only pay BTI more than $ 600,000 on the loan principle, leaving more than $ 24 million outstanding. Four of the seven venture capital firms went bankrupt. Two of the venture capital firms, which together received $ 8 million, never invested in companies in West Virginia as needed. And the EDA kept poor records between 2002 and 2016 and was never able to confirm whether any of the venture capital investments resulted in economic development or job creation or retention.

The whole point of venture capital is investing in companies and ideas in the hopes that those investments will bring high returns as the business or idea develops. It’s a risky endeavor and it doesn’t always work. That’s not the problem unless you believe the government shouldn’t be using tax dollars to pick winners and losers.

The problem here is that the wise government and democratically controlled legislature passed the bill to create this loan program. They did not contain any real benchmarks and reporting requirements and no real control. As a result, the loan program escaped scrutiny until 2019 when former treasurer John Perdue attempted to close the loan program and discovered the issues before approaching the Legislative Auditor’s Office for an investigation.

This begs another question: why did the Treasurer’s Office only discover these issues in 2019? Perdue was a six-year-old treasurer who took office in 1997, five years before the EDA loan program was launched. Why did it take 18 years to find out that $ 25 million loaned to the EDA in 2002 had not been repaid?

The new state treasurer, Riley Moore, has only been on duty for two weeks but is preoccupied with this issue and looking at other BTI-funded programs.

***.

Derrick Evans, the former Wayne County Republican member of the House of Delegates indicted more than three weeks ago in the sacking of the U.S. Capitol Building to prevent Congress from determining President Joe Biden as the 2020 winner Choice, was replaced last week. But that has become a controversy of its own.

Evans resigned on Jan. 9, triggering a 15-day window of time for the local political party’s executive committee to select the names of three qualified individuals to be sent to Governor Jim Justice. He then had five days from the date on which he received the list to select one of the three nominees.

In this case, the Wayne County Republican Executive Committee filed his letter in three names on Jan. 14. The West Virginia Republican Party filed its own letter with three names on January 22nd. The only difference between the two letters is that the state GOP letter switched one of the names for Joshua Booth. Coincidentally, Booth was the one Justice picked last Wednesday.

Wayne County REC has filed a lawsuit in the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals to compel the judiciary to choose from one of the names on their list. Justice and his advisors believe the second letter is valid and satisfied with Booth’s appointment. I was told the problem is whether the Wayne County REC followed the Republican Party’s statutes when they met and chose their names.

State law is pretty clear: the judiciary had to choose one of the names submitted by the district committee as long as it is within the 15-day period from the time the delegate resigned. After 15 days, Justice can choose who he wants according to the state code. But has the district committee followed the internal rules required by the state party? The Supreme Court has to decide.

If there had been problems with Wayne County REC’s selection of names, Justice could have waited 15 days and then made his choice. It is likely that a trial would still take place, but then the judiciary would have a good argument in court. Instead, to the layperson, it looks like the rules have been changed to designate a business owner who works as a legislator for the state.

Steven Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com.

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