Saudi Arabian company BinDawood Holding Co. acquired an 80.5 percent stake in the company through its wholly owned subsidiary, Future Technology Retail, a technology and retail solutions investment company, nabbing the 70 percent stake owned by TF1 Group, a French leader in content production, publishing and distribution, and the other 10.5 percent interest from minority investors.
Although the involved entities declined to provide financial details, industry sources pegged the transaction at 50 million euros.
Current co-chief executive officers Olivier Billon, Matteo Baldi and Anne Höweler maintained minority ownership of Ykone alongside other top managers.
Billon told WWD that the acquisition and the ambitious 70-million-euro revenue target set for 2022 are testament to renewed interest for the influencer space.
“I felt that before COVID-19 there was a sort of influencer fatigue, there were a lot of discussions about that being the end of the influencer era, but what I’m truly feeling today is that there’s a new wave in that business, [with brands being] very demanding…and as a consequence the entire industry has to make some significant progresses,” he said.
Ykone’s network-building agenda has been recently geared toward growing its size, scope and reach.
After acquiring a 51 percent interest in Milan-based digital communication agency MB New Media Agency, owned by Baldi and which includes the Bold Management talent firm, Ykone bought German agency Cover Communications this month to expand its European footprint.
Ykone already boasted offices in Berlin, in addition to Paris; Milan; Shanghai; Hong Kong; Geneva; Munich; Miami; Dubai and Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.; Riyadh and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Bangalore, India, and Tunis, Tunasia.
Forecasting revenues will hit the 100-million-euro threshold in 2023, Billon said Ykone is continuously opening new offices wherever there’s market share for the luxury and tourism industry, the latter enjoying robust rebound.
To this end, Ykone is opening its second U.S. offices in Las Vegas, after Miami. “Our biggest clients are from the luxury industry…but those [influencer marketing] investments are also coming from the tourism sector, and we’ve seen a rebound with tremendous excitement from tourism companies to reinvest, and Las Vegas is one of the tourism capitals of the world,” Billon offered.
Although plans for a further race in the U.S. were not detailed, nor did Billon disclose whether global expansion will rely on M&A activity or new direct openings, he offered that the rationale is taking the European flair Stateside.
“There’s no need for a French company to venture there and replicate the American way of doing business. I believe that this strong cultural heritage that we have is our strength,” Billon said.
“Europe is obsessed with creativity and granularity…and we focus on relationships between brands and influencers that benefit the output and the creative content. In the U.S., what we’re seeing is that numbers come first, creativity comes second. There’s no taboo in the U.S. to talk about conversion and performance,” he noted.
Last month, Ykone launched its own production division called Oddly Enough, specialized in producing branded digital content fronted by influencers. It has already installed three studios and four hubs around the world to lead it. It reflects the firm’s ambition to provide all-encompassing services.
Its strong data-driven approach supported by the in-house platform Campaygn, which guarantees its clients real-time tracking and management of social media campaigns as well as provides benchmark in terms of price and performance, is pivotal as brands have grown more educated than ever on influencer marketing.
“In the social media world, a lot of data is public, so there is little value in crunching them. The real value is collecting, as opposed to crunching, data about price and performance. We want to help brands evaluate which influencers they can afford and those who have driven positive performances for other brands [in the past],” Billon explained, mentioning the 10,000 influencers and hundreds of brands the firm links with each year.
“It’s about building an ecosystem of trust….Today, brands are looking for an environment of trust as much as they’re looking for an environment of creativity and performance,” he said.