Wilhelmina is getting serious about its fledgling division, Wilhelmina + Studio, which creates digital content and influencer programming for brands.
The division, which was launched quietly two years ago, acts as a creative agency within Wilhelmina to focus on content creation for brands, particularly for their social media needs, ranging from still photography to videos.
According to Bill Wackermann, chief executive officer of Wilhelmina International Inc., since the modeling agency already has access to models, celebrities, photographers, directors, stylists and makeup artists, it was a natural progression. Wilhelmina + Studio assists brands with their social media needs and acts like a one-stop shop for clients looking to establish, fashion, beauty and lifestyle relevancy. The division is headed by Rory Roth, creative director at Wilhelmina + Studio, who also is creative services director at Wilhelmina International.
“I have been at Wilhelmina for over three years, and one of the things that struck me was so many of the brands now have to produce so much content. Now every brand needs to be putting out eight or 10 pieces of content a day. But they don’t have marketing departments really to do all that. Big ad agencies are not interested in doing those smaller deals, they’re looking for the multimillion [dollar] campaigns,” said Wackermann, who was previously a publisher at Condé Nast.
“I thought we can create a new business called Studio and take our in-house talent we already have and provide a service for brands and clients,” he said.
Wilhelmina + Studio works with 22 brands, including Disney, L’Oréal, Diesel, Puma and Ugg. He said the micro-agency “fulfills a niche between a big agency and a modeling agency that has the capabilities to do production, casting and turn-key content at lower rate structure.
“There is no middle man,” Wackermann said. So far, 12 people are part of the Wilhelmina + Studio team. “It’s not an incubator concept. It’s a concept that’s worked, and now we’re launching in it earnest. It has its own web site,” he noted. Among the numerous campaigns it’s already done, are two global campaigns for Diesel, two campaigns for L’Oréal Biolage and a campaign for Ugg.
For the Ugg campaign for spring 2019, for example, Wilhelmina + Studio created and executed a turn-key content series to launch their new sneaker. They created a “Models in Real Life” street-style series showcasing five real models wearing their Uggs during New York Fashion Week. The photos were used on Ugg’s social and editorial platforms to generate awareness around the new Ugg sneaker.
Wackermann said they’re doing seven or eight shoots for L’Oréal Biolage, and each shoot has five to eight pieces of content. They will give it to the client and Wilhelmina will post it as well. Some of their campaigns have been Diesel’s “Be a Follower,” and “A Day in the Life of Tampax.” They’ve also worked with Disney on a collaboration with Minnie Mouse, which was about Minnie and Fashion Week.
Images are used for third-party advertising, out-of-home, p.r., marketing, as well as digital and social platforms.
Wackermann said they’re not working in conjunction with these brand’s main ad agencies. “It’s bringing different creative concepts to the table,” he said. He said the brands will still do a big ad campaign. “This is a completely different market. They’re putting out content on social media. There’s really no print business anymore. They’re social media driven campaigns. They’re not the television commercials. They’re created completely for social media,” he said.
Wackermann said the goal is to be nimble, move quickly and create campaigns that feel big, but aren’t expensive. They’re not flying models to Turks and Caicos. Wilhelmina tries to use their in-house people as much as they can, but if a client wants different talent, they accommodate that request. So far, they have cast some of their talent such as Nicki Minaj, Miles Richie, Sofia Richie and Rae Sremmurd in campaigns for Diesel and MCM.
Wackermann said the first year, Wilhelmina Studio became profit positive and in the second year it’s doing a multiple six-figure business.
“It’s a really good, growing part of our business,” he said.