Interview with Ted Dhanik, engage:BDR

Story by Benjamin F. Kuo


Ted Dhanik is co-founder and CEO of West Hollywood-based engage: BDR (, which recently just launched an influencer marketing platform aimed at Instagram.users. Ted was an executive at Myspace, as VP of Strategic Marketing, and was at LowerMyBills before that. Engage:BDR has just launched a platform which lets brands browse and discover influencers, create campaigns, and reach customers through limited time advertisements posted by those influencers.

So you were telling us that engage:BDR is actually replacing something people are still doing on spreadsheets?

Ted Dhanik: Advertisers and agencies right now have spreadsheets of these influencers and their reach, and other information, and they're even very old school and sending faxes. When we started planning what we would be doing, we wanted to be the platform to automate this process, not just planning, but also post execution and reporting, plus most importantly, validation of posts. If you're asking a hundred influencers to post content, who is validating those posts, and who is making sure that not only is that conten being published, but is it being published for the amount of time you bought? If you've paid an influencer for 12 hours, 1 hour, three hours, or 24 hours, you need technology to measure that you're getting exactly what you paid for. Our system actually looks at when a post was made, the start time, and also at the end ime, when it's supposed to come down. All of that is used to mark a post as payable, and also provides additional reporting for advertisers, who want to know how many people they reached. If i's a video, how many times was that video viewed, and how many likes did it get. If it's a post, how many comments did it get? All of this is very dynamic, and changes every minute. The idea is we have a central place for these transactions to happen, and to give value.

What, if anything, did you learn from Myspace which you are applying here?

Ted Dhanik: (Laughs) Absolutely nothing. It's funny, though I would say that a lot of the work we're doing here is similar to what we were doing at Myspace in the beginning. Initially, Myspace was competing with Friendster, and lots of influeners on MySpace were coming from Friendster, so we were doing a lot of outreach to those users. This is kind of similar, because, although we're not a competing social media platform, we're building a tool to help these influencers on other platforms, so our outreach strategy is very similar. It's all about reaching out to big influencers and tastemakers, and providing a big, compelling opportunity for them. From that standpoint, I learned a lot from Myspace. You have to know the value that these influencers seek, what they need today, and the empowerment they require. I hate to say it, but influencers, who really are the ones driving volume, traffic, and revenues, are not being treated well by the platforms. They are not being treated well by companies who are out there, looking to profit from their presence. Our goal is to empower them, make life easier, and help them create businesses which are more sustainable. At the end of the day, if they made money doing this, they'd post more and better content. It's a lot tougher for them if it's short lived.

Describe how this looks for an influencer?

Ted Dhanik: There's two ways to approach this: integrated content versus advertising. Integrated content is always more authentic and organic, but if you're working on integrated content, and for example, you're in apparel, you have to ship that to an influencer, they have to wear it, and they have to shoot themselves wearing it in different locations. That's a more traditional, branded content opportunity, and truly integrated marketing. That stuff happens a lot, but it happens a lot more with macro influencers. It's less scalable, because it requires fulfillment and lots of shipping. We do have a strategy around that, but we think it's secondary. We think the bigger opportunity is in microinfluencers, those with 10,000 to 250,000 followers. A few hundred here and there will post an ad for 24 hours, and then take it down. It looks like a more traditional ad, and it's more transactional. I think the scale is going to come from commoditized content that is created by advertisers, rather than the custom stuff that influencers create. There's a lot more scale in that, and I think it will generate more revenues for influencers as well.

How far along are you in launching this platform?

Ted Dhanik: We're about a year into this build, and it's been in private beta for a month. We're getting a lot of invitation requests, from both influencers and advertisers, every day. That's really fantastic to see that traction. We are dedicated to improving the experience before we go live, and we're going to keep it in private beta for as long as we need to to make it really, really great. We're leveraging feedback from both sides, to make the right adjustments. By keeping it a private beta, we're able to create a lot of exclusivity around it, as well. We don't want to destroy our future by rolling out something that is not great.

So what's the ultimate goal with the platform?

Ted Dhanik: We really think this could be the Adwords of Instagram. Adwords is really selling commoditized inventory, and really focused on the smaller influencer. If you're an advertiser, and you want to target and audience of 2 million, you can either go to a page with an influencer with 2 million followers, and expect engagement of 1 percent, or you can target influencers with 10,000 to 250,000 followers. Some of the influencers on the smaller side of 10,000 have engagement of 10 to 15 percent. Your effective engagement across those two million will be much stronger, and you will pay less. That's where we think we can add lots of value, reaching microinfluencers, and where audiences are more engaged.



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