Today I'm going to introduce you to a man that has robbed me and many other influencers of a tidy sum of money. Luckily I've got enough going on where I can notch losing a grand to experience, the lights will remain on in the Carl Thompson house. Charlie will still get his treats, Christmas won't be cancelled and I am still able to afford Waitrose's double velvet toilet paper. (I know, the ultimate barometer for one’s wealth).
A couple of months ago I was approached by an influencer marketing company called Brandnew IO. Their CEO Francis Trapp (I know right? Don't even..) founded the company in 2013 and claim to be the leading Content Creator Platform for brands and agencies.
According to their LinkedIn profile: Our (Brandnew IO) platform enables marketers to efficiently discover Creators, manage relationships, collaborate on high engaging content and measure campaign results.
After the payment failed to come through for a campaign I did on their behalf, I contacted the brand who assured me they had paid their end. I was CC'd into a few emails and eventually the trail ran cold as they say in the Secret Service.
So who else has been duped?
I checked out Brandnew IO's social pages and found over influencers and content creators had also been chagrined, for want of a better word. Wait I have a better word; ripped-off! (Ok I had to hyphenate).
A fellow influencer, Audrey Leighton Rogers, really blew the lid open on these guys in her Instagram stories and after asking around the influencer community she was not the only one.
"Often we use agents/platforms who act as a middleman to connect brands with influencers. So our contract is with these people.
But often these businesses are new and seem to come and go take Brandnew IO for example.
They have been getting influencers work and the brands have paid them yet they have kept the money and not paid their influencers for the content they have created and the money they are rightfully owed.
Often we are waiting on 90 days for payment, so what happens to that money during that time? It is used to run the business. Staff, office etc. And these apps/platforms cost huge amounts in development so simply is (if) the brands dry up and stop using the platform the cash flow soon fails.
I’m not saying this has happened at Brandnew IO but they filed for insolvency on the 1st August 2018 leaving 100s of influencers unpaid for content they have created."
So why has Brandnew IO disappeared?
This is the strangest thing. I understand that setting up a company like this requires a large investment of capital upfront. Developing the software to integrate influencers with brands costs money. IT developers don't come cheap so you might see a lot of these influencer agencies come and go in the night.
However, Brandnew IO was founded in 2013 according to their LinkedIn page. Surely they've managed to recoup the initial startup costs and reached parity by now?
I took a closer look at their funding and whilst these reports are speculative, it appears that the company came to prominence from small capital investors. I’m guessing family backed with initial funding then persuaded some private investment from Zurich.
Although the last round of funding was over 4 years ago, the company have been riding that wave and developing their platform but without making a sufficient return, failed to generate enough profit to keep the lights on. Perhaps they managed to pay their investors back, but failed to leave enough in the kitty for their staff and consequently, us.
So where's the money gone? The money gets sloshed around, invoices get delayed, chased, delayed, emails miraculously get sent to junk mail or never received.
I can only imagine Trapp has reinvested the money into the ailing business and thrown good money after bad. Or has simply bought himself a nice couple of bespoke suits, a few Rolex watches. God I'm sounding like Sam Rothstein questioning Ginger in Casino.
"I bet he had a good time on my money. How did he get fitted for suits that fast? He's not going to wear 1,000 dollar suits. But let’s say he did which he won't, how are you going to get fitted for 25 suits in 3 days? How can you get fitted that fast? I can't get fitted that fast and I pay twice as much."
I've tried reach out to Francis Trapp for a quote as the company has neglected to update any of its social media platforms which have served more of a petition page for out of pocket influencers demanding payment.
Trapp has refused to reply. Consistent to everyone else’s experiences. Including content creator Gemma Talbot who has this to say:
“To say I’m angry is an understatement. Weeks of chasing payments that are months late with no response. The most frustrating part is that I’d been paid for one collaboration I completed through the Brandnew IO platform but not the other two.
Why not? I’ve completed the work and whilst I appreciate the brand in question may not be to blame they’ve still gained the exposure yet I'm at a loss of both money and time taken to create the content in the first place.
It’s hard to just accept you’ll never see money for content you’ve created because the company have filed for insolvency.
It just doesn’t seem fair or right. Money that I’d counted on to pay rent and bills. After all, living in London is pricey. Not only do I feel sorry for the other influencers affected (some are owed several thousands of pounds) but also for the employees of Brandnew IO some who have contacted me directly on Instagram via DM to tell me the company owe them up to £8000 in wages!
Quite frankly it’s disgusting. Whilst it appears all my emails have gone unanswered, when I publicly called Brandnew IO out on my Instagram stories by tagging the brand directly someone managing their social media had seen it immediately.
I received no email update, no apology and had been completely left in the dark. I’m trying to perhaps understand from their point of view but quite frankly there is no feasible explanation. It’s simply disgusting and wholly unprofessional on their part.”
Wake up Call
It's a wakeup call for brands also, finding the right influencer for your product is hardly a feat of acrobatics. The blame cannot be placed on the brands for a 3rd party company they have also trusted going bankrupt. However in many cases the brands have appointed influencers for their campaigns themselves and redirected said influencers to signup to Brandnew IO as a platform for the campaign. Now in this case does the brand have to take some responsibility? Legally, no. If they want to do the right thing, then yes.
In my particular case, I was approached by a major Media Agency to do some work for a brand. After lots of email back and forth we agreed on deliverables and payment. At this point, I was told to signup to the Brandnew IO platform to continue the campaign. Fast forward months, I completed the campaign, submitted the content and requested payment from the platform. The Media Agency and the brand were happy with the content, although a month ago I got an email from the Media Agency it said:
"I just wanted to reach out regarding the delay campaign payment.
Huge apologies for the major delay in payment for this campaign. I completely understand that this is very frustrating and we have been investigating this as much as we can.
Going forward, I have cc’d my Brandnew support contact, who will be able to keep you updated from their side and get in touch with you directly. Just to clarify, Brandnew is a separate company from us and act as an influencer identification platform for us that processes campaign payments to bloggers. Therefore, your Brandnew contact will be handling this financial delay with you going forward. Please do feel free to keep me CC’d within emails."
That's great but it also felt like one of those 'we know what's going on here with Brandnew IO and trying to cover ourselves' kind of emails. Since that email I have sent at least another 6 emails asking for payment updates which were ignored. I then contacted the Media Agency and again ignored. I guess I have to chalk this one down to experience and think about how to alleviate this from happening in the future. It maybe in the form of tighter contracts, shorter payment terms, better due diligence and risk assessments.
If they need to cast a wider net with a certain campaign a lot of influencers (like myself, like Dapper Chapper, like Human Research etc) will spearhead a campaign on their behalf and advise them on which of their contemporaries will be a good fit for their brand.
As for Brandnew IO and Francis Trapp, I welcome them to make a statement in reply to this blog.
I'm happy to pick up the phone and demystify why they've neglected to pay their staff and hundreds of other influencers. I don't sling mud that often, but Francis, you've forced my throwing arm.