Quartermain Media co-founder and Chief Creative Officer Alberlynne “Abby” Woods seemingly found herself in the engagement marketing field by chance. After earning a bachelor’s degree in industrial labor relations, as well as her JD and MBA, she struggled to find meaningful employment until she eventually landed at Disney’s Maker Studio. There she helped create the company’s Best Day Ever YouTube channel, while also volunteering with young professionals in Los Angeles.
While at Disney, Abby recognized that there was tremendous potential for influencers of color and those in marginalized groups, but they weren’t being given enough opportunities from major brands. Abby noted that, though many big companies were rejecting the idea of more inclusivity, she saw Disney embrace it.
“What I found about Disney was that they operate best because of what they don’t tolerate, and what they don’t tolerate is exclusion. What they don’t tolerate is things that are just — I’ll just call them beige. That’s not their thing. They’re all about color creativity, and, I would say, diversity inclusion.”
So, Abby decided to become a sort of “bridge” for these influencers, helping connect up-and-coming influencers to opportunities, particularly when it comes to video production and branded content.
“I think sometimes when people consider and talk about influencers, they don’t really acknowledge that they themselves are a brand. And so it’s wonderful to have someone as large as AT&T or a really awesome company like Sephora, you know, … match with a talent that has literally built an audience, built their own brand, and put them in the same room and say, ‘Okay, we’re going to make something awesome.’”
And that’s how Quartermain Media, which Abby co-founded with her husband James Woods Jr. in 2013, was born. With its launch, the company became the “first Black-owned creative agency with full-service production capabilities to be listed in the YouTube Service Provider Directory,” as is noted on its website. Over the years, they’ve collaborated with the likes of Ford and Toyota for campaigns and have worked with Sam Tsui and Lala Milan on music videos.
Quartermain Media’s Goals
Abby wants Quartermain Media to provide influencers with new opportunities, and one way it’s doing that is by making moves to have influencers work in film and television.
“I’ll tell you our ultimate goals are to do film and television, and that’s beginning to happen. Commercials, film, and television is really where we want to ultimately go. … And we want to be able to incorporate influencer talent to basically cross over into traditional modes and mediums for television and entertainment.”
So while Quartermain Media may have started by connecting influencers to brand opportunities like doing sponsored content on social media, the future of the company is in the entertainment industry helping influencers land parts in commercials, TV shows, and movies. Certainly an amazing opportunity for creators and brands who want to connect with an influencer’s audience, these small roles or cameos also provide a fun experience for fans who’ve witnessed creators’ growth.
How Quartermain Media Works with Influencers
While some marketing agencies may maintain a roster of people who they work with, Quartermain Media works a little differently. Abby explained that, to put it simply, they work with whom they choose. Sometimes, that means people reach out to them, and sometimes Quartermain Media reaches out to others. What’s important is that Quartermain Media has its “finger on the pulse of the culture.”
Abby shared that Quartermain Media works with influencers on a per-project basis at the moment, but she’s hopeful that will change one day. It all depends on companies altering their standards and choosing to welcome more diversity in their projects.
“We want people to just call us all the time, but it’s just not the way that the business operates at this level, I think at this stage. But I think that [it is] prime for those things to change as more and more companies start to just realize, ‘I don’t need, necessarily quote, unquote, Blacktown. I just need really fun and entertaining talent. And if they happen to be Black, Asian, Hispanic … we got to go for it.’”
Abby hopes companies will start to focus less on diversity for just diversity’s sake and more seriously consider whether or not influencers are entertaining and can contribute to their profits, regardless of who those influencers are.
Abby Woods Encourages Aspiring Influencers to Have Patience
Each brand is looking for the right influencer for their projects. Many — like Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud Network, according to Abby — are “careful” about who they bring on board for campaigns. After all, companies, especially those with a celebrity face, want to make sure they’re thinking through what makes the most sense for their brand and follows the brand guidelines they’ve established.
So, as brands learn more about what they want and who they should work with, Abby wants influencers to understand they just need to have a little patience as they navigate the influencer marketing world, as it’s still a relatively new field for agencies and brands, too.
“It’s all still new. A lot of systems are still being created and while people are moving, some people are moving faster than others. As far as agencies and, you know, management companies and influencers moving here, moving there, you know, give yourself grace for mistakes. Give yourself grace for opportunities to reveal why they’re happening. Because there’s a lot of learning that can happen even with our failures.”
How Brands Should Change When It Comes to Influencer Marketing
Though more brands are embracing influencer marketing, Abby warned that the way these brands are determining whether a sponsored post or campaign is successful needs to change. In true business fashion, the focus has typically been on the numbers produced by a marketing campaign, such as click-through rates, rather than the experience of it.
“They’re like, we’ve got to weave a lot of this budget. We need to get this many eyeballs. We need to get this many click-throughs and it’s like, we have just sucked all the fun out of the room.”
Abby also believes that brands would do well to alter their influencer marketing tactics. Rather than recruiting one or two very popular influencers to take part in a campaign, brands could instead work with 20 or so smaller influencers, or micro influencers, and achieve the same success. Abby noted that there’s data that proves that working with multiple micro influencers generates the same or more “excitement” than campaigns with only one major influencer do.
“If you’re looking for that authentic entertainment rawness, you’re going to get it from the micro influencers.”
One way to find the right micro influencers is by working with marketing agencies, Abby said, and not necessarily large, well-known ones. By working with boutique agencies instead, brands could be setting themselves up to be in a good position to work with up-and-comers or “diamonds in the rough.”
The Future of Influencer Marketing
Abby understands well that influencer marketing is ever-evolving, and with Quartermain Media, she’s looking forward to what the future holds when it comes to connecting influencers with opportunities to be in commercials or TV shows or to be in movies.
“I don’t think influencer marketing is going anywhere. I actually am excited for it to continue along its path and to see it evolve and to see influencers moving into more traditional media spaces — TV, film, commercials.”
One such influencer who broke out into the TV space is B. Scott, who climbed the ranks of influencer marketing to land their own show on BET: Twenties After-Show With B. Scott. And while the show is surely an amazing gig to secure for someone who once had a small online following, it’s made even more impressive by the fact that B. Scott, whom Abby worked with as a producer, made history with it. As noted by The Wrap, B. Scott became the “first trans-nonbinary person to host and executive produce a show at BET.”
So where is influencer marketing and Quartermain Media headed next?
“I definitely feel that our next step is scripted content featuring influencer talent, so people get to not only see talent they love, but see them actually … performing roles and playing characters. And I think that’s where we’re headed next.”