Billion Dollar Business
Posted 01/10/2019 12:00PM

Permele with co-founders Edward East (right) and Thomas Walters (left)

Advertising and marketing aren't what they used to be. Meet the world of the influencer, where consumers inform other consumers about brands. “Influencers” are public figures who usually have a specific style, ethos, or vibe. Their “followers” trust their choices, which for brands means big business. Billion Dollar Boy is a global influencer marketing agency with offices in London and New York focusing on fashion, beauty, and lifestyle brands. They have worked with clients including The Estee Lauder Companies, L’Oreal, Bentley, Chopard, Armani, and Diageo.

TASIS alumna and Billion Dollar Boy co-founder Permele Doyle ’05 serves as president of the New York office. We caught up with her to learn how she became an expert in the fascinating field of influencer marketing.

Can you give us a brief timeline of what you’ve done since graduation?
After two very happy years at TASIS, I thought I should spend some time back in the US, so I accepted an offer at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. I was thrilled to get in “out of state,” and they had a fantastic English program, but I wasn’t sure if it would be too American for me. I ended up having an incredible four years there and majored in English Literature. Upon graduation, I had the opportunity to move to London and work at a music publishing company and boutique PR firm. I had so much fun being back in Europe, seeing lots of TASIS friends in London and beyond. Unable to get a visa to stay, I moved home to New York and was hired to join the Global Communications team at Tom Ford Beauty, which is part of The Estée Lauder Companies. I had trained as an intern at the company two summers during school. I worked for Tom Ford Beauty for five years helping to launch their cosmetics brand, oversee digital communications, plan global launch events, and develop their first social media strategy and influencer activations. It was an incredible experience, but I knew that branding on Instagram was the direction everything was going—especially in the fashion and beauty world—and I knew I wanted to work exclusively in that digital space, as I found it so exciting.

How did you meet Billion Dollar Boy founder Edward East, and when did you decide to get involved with the company?
Ed and I were best friends at university! We were even roommates my senior year. Ed was always way ahead of everyone else when it came to digital media—he had a blog in college before anyone knew what a blog was. We remained friends after school, and he often came to me for insights when I was at Tom Ford, as he had the brilliant idea to launch the first blogger database while he was working in the film industry in Los Angeles. We joked about working together on this agency, and those jokes then became a very interesting opportunity. I left Tom Ford Beauty to become a founder of Billion Dollar Boy along with Ed and Thomas Walters and opened the US office in September 2015. I now oversee our growing US operations, campaigns, and business development while working closely with Ed and the London team.

“TASIS set me up incredibly well to work for a global company that services global brands and engages global influencers. I would not trade my time there for anything.”

The term “influencer marketing” may be new to some of our readers. Can you explain what an “influencer” is and why utilizing them is a viable and proven alternative to traditional advertising?
An influencer is a creative individual with a substantial and engaged social media following who creates and shares content about their interests with their follower base. They can be traditional bloggers, photographers, entrepreneurs, artists, etc.

Influencer marketing enables a brand to harness the creativity of an individual in order to seamlessly deliver memorable messages to their audience. Instead of a brand buying an ad in Vogue, they are now securing space on an influencer’s social media feed. It is “word-of-mouth” advertising combining content creation and distribution.

Influencer marketing allows brands to reach customers in a much more targeted and authentic way than traditional advertising. It is also trackable. Statistics show that around 75% of people trust social networks to guide them to purchase decisions. People are more likely to buy a brand’s product if it is presented and recommended by a person they can identify with (in comparison to billboards, magazine ads, etc.).

Billion Dollar Boy combines data and creativity to thrive as a full-service influencer agency. We combine our personal relationships, industry knowledge, and proprietary tech to develop bespoke creative strategies and execute campaigns. We are very lucky to work with a roster of top aspirational brands across global markets.

You’ve mentioned in interviews that one of Billion Dollar Boy’s biggest challenges is to target males; what sort of things have worked?
Male audiences like to be either educated or entertained. Just having pretty pictures does not work for them! We look into the audience demographics of the influencers before recommending them to clients and also ensure they are producing the highest quality content that audiences will engage with.

How tricky is it to balance content with your influencers to ensure the authenticity remains? Is the goal to be seamless in product “placement” or does it matter to followers/communities if a post feels like an ad?
The influencer staying authentic is definitely key to ensure that their audience engages with the content. Though we have a very detailed briefing process where we provide a creative brief and mood board and approve content ideas, ultimately we carefully select influencers for their individual aesthetic and trust them to know what type of content and messaging resonates best with their audience.

How much of the content do you manage?
We sit on the brand side and engage the influencers and content creators to fully produce that content. The influencers we work with are publishing around 200 to 300 branded pieces of content a month.

Permele leading a panel at Social Media Week 2018 in New York

Your “Matchmaker” system that connects brands with influencers sounds a bit like online dating. Tell us about this and how it works for the agency.
It could be! Matchmaker is a platform that offers a variety of tools. It allows us to identify influencers by their audience demographics, social media statistics, content categories, and information. We can also track and save all content created by our influencers and measure the success of a campaign with our fully customizable social analytics dashboards. Clients say these are the best campaign reporting tools they have seen.

How did your time at TASIS influence what you do in your daily life?
TASIS set me up incredibly well to work for a global company that services global brands and engages global influencers. I would not trade my time there for anything. It was hugely influential in shaping my taste and perspective.

I know that your former advisor and friend Kay Hamblin was a huge influence on you; do you continue to hear her voice in your head during challenging times?
Kay was indeed an enormous influence on me and a great friend. While I was moderating a Social Media panel last month, I remembered her telling me to “enun-ci-ate!” She definitely taught me the importance of confidence and having a presence in front of others. There is no way that presenting at a big pitch meeting at Estée Lauder was not influenced by being on stage in all those Shakespeare plays.

Are you still in touch with your TASIS friends?
Yes, though not enough lately! Nearly our entire class came back for our 10-year reunion three years ago, which was a total and utter blast. I am lucky to see Mollie Toole and Skyler Gross in New York and Alex Weinig, Mark Hansen, Tessa Wienker, and Marie-Christine Molitor in London and abroad. It was such an amazing asset after I graduated that in any city in the world, there was most likely a TASIS friend you could call and see.

This article was originally printed in the 2018 issue of TASIS Today.

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