Updated: Is Maker Screwing Its Creators Out Of Brand Deals?

UPDATE 11/20/14 17:01 EST: So NMR heard back from Travis Chambers, the brand manager (Brand Aid!) who sent the Tweet heard ’round the MCN universe. And since we said we’d post when we heard back from him (and we sometimes live up to our claims), here are his comments:

The response to that post has been overwhelmingly positive, evidently it’s circulating the industry and creators, so I feel it’s my social responsibility to make it known, regardless of the implications. (I asked him why he went public with the tweet). 

We are a new company, only 6 months old, we’ve done a few hundred thousand dollars in business thus far and haven’t even had time to set up a website yet. The demand has been insane just from our personal network leads alone. We’re trending to be a multi-million dollar agency in the next year.

My partners and I spun off One in the Chamber after our success on Kobe/Messi at Crispin Porter + Bogusky for Turkish Airlines and got a call from the agency President of the London office questioning why they spent so much money on TV, yet garnered 137MM views on YouTube for a fraction of that budget. That President was onto something big. Online video is clickable, shareable, conversionable, TV isn’t.

With that campaign, we kind of cracked the code on tactics that make a video get massively shared, with the huge help of vendors Shareability, Plaid Social Labs and VidIQ among others. We realized Kobe/Messi could have even been so much bigger had we been granted even more autonomy on the campaign. It’s the most seen YouTube ad of all time, and we pulled it off with a shockingly small budget.

After he’d responded, I realized I needed some damn closure so I reached out to ask if he’d heard back from Maker or any of its creators. He responded:

We’ve heard from a couple creators letting us know they are interested, we haven’t heard anything from Maker. A founder looked at my LinkedIn, that’s it thus far.

And then I got this one solo email from Chambers, which I absolutely love:

One more thought, how often have MCN’s sued their non-top 100 creators for making deals without them? Almost never. The truth is some Maker Creators might not realize they can probably get away with doing whatever they want.

Amen. It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission — just one of the many mottos I claim to live by. So there’s that. Let’s see if Maker decides to respond now.

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You’d think after dropping $500 million on something, you’d want to keep it nice. But if this allegation from global Brand Aid (coining that!) ambassador Travis Chambers is accurate, Disney is about to destroy a perfectly good MCN.

Chambers, who runs One In The Chamber, a firm dedicated to connecting social media influencers with like-minded brands, just posted on Twitter that Maker isn’t interested in helping their smaller clients get brand deals. According to a recent post, Maker typically won’t help creators secure brand deals unless there is a $200,000 investment from companies. Meaning that allegedly a LOT of money ends up getting ignored because Maker doesn’t make enough profit off it to consider it of interest to their corporation.

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A source intimately familiar with the workings of brand deals and Maker had this to say: “One of the things that’s criminal about this is that Maker have a lot of their talent on exclusive contracts, which means that they can’t go out and get 30k brand deals for themselves, but at the same time, Maker won’t facilitate those deals because it’s not worth their time.”

This tweet should be a fairly alarming red flag to creators currently signed with Maker because it essentially says that a lot of money is being left on the table strictly because the MCN doesn’t want to deal with helping mid-level and smaller channels — creators who could really benefit from ANY added income — which is the majority of their client base.

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If you think all YouTubers are sitting pretty and don’t need additional income from brand deals, think again. The average YouTuber payout from Adsense is worked out at roughly $1 for every thousand views (what is called CPM for some odd reason).  Even major Maker-signed creators like Shay Carl rarely get huge views for all their content. Many high-profile creators fall somewhere in the 20K-80K view range for their average videos. 8oK views might seem like a lot, but that translates to $80 … and even then, there are deductions for managers, agents and the MCN itself. It can add up quickly, so even the major creators should be furious at the deals Maker is apparently turning away.

Brand deals are complex though — even I don’t understand them as well as I ought to, but here is an approximation of how they work, broken down into laymen’s terms so that you and I both can understand them.

For $200,000, Maker would guarantee a company a certain number of views, distributed across a multitude of channels under their umbrella, big and small. An industry smart person has assured me that $200K might even just be “break even money” for the amount of labor and hassle involved in getting ads placed in preroll or coordinating an original campaign that can stretch over several videos. So, in a sense, there is some logic in Maker having limitations on branding. After all, it shouldn’t cost them money to work with advertisers. But that doesn’t necessarily make it right or fair for the channel creators. The language of contracts going forward might need changing — creators should be like NASCAR drivers, just decked out head to toe in company logos.

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Before sharpening your pitchforks and lighting torches over all this though, understand that One in the Chamber is a small, new and fairly unestablished company. They currently boast five(!) followers on LinkedIn, which seems to be their main presence on the web. Still, Chambers has been in the social media and branding business a long time, even having allegedly worked on the super viral Kobe Bryant/Lionel Messi campaign for Turkish Airlines. So he isn’t exactly small potatoes.

We’ve reached out to Travis for further elaboration and of course to Maker for a chance at a rebuttal; we’ll update when we hear back, but if this allegation is accurate, it’s maddening. It does however fit in with claims we’ve heard from other creators about different MCNs — so why should Maker be any different?

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If someone knocked on your MCN’s door with $30,000 to spend on helping your channel grow in reach and brand awareness though, wouldn’t you hope that your MCN would at least invite them in?

Share this article far and wide. And if you work with Maker, or you just have an opinion about this, please chime in below.

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