The New York Times is expanding its native ad studio with the acquisition of HelloSociety, a digital marketing agency owned by Science, Inc.
Los Angeles-based Science both invest in startups and builds its own companies. It launched HelloSociety (which it fully owned) back in 2012 as an analytics platform for Pinterest marketers. Since then, it’s broadened beyond Pinterest to platforms like Instagram and YouTube, as well as turning into an agency that connects brands with influential social media users who can help promote their marketing efforts.
HelloSociety currently has more than 1,500 influencers in its network. The companies say that the agency’s “tools, talent and approach” will become part of T Brand Studio, The Times’ native ad team. (Media companies aren’t the only ones wanting to move into this industry — Twitter acquired influencer marketing startup Niche last year.)
In the acquisition release, Times CEO Mark Thompson said T Brand Studio doubled its revenue in 2015 compared to 2014.
“We now want to accelerate its development and broaden the range of creative and marketing services that we offer clients from content ideation and creation to distribution,” Thompson said. “The reach and results-driven tactics of HelloSociety are the ideal complements to our strategic vision for the future of T Brand Studio.”
The companies say it was an all-cash deal, but they did not disclose the price.
Update: I spoke to Sebastian Tomich, The Times’ senior vice president of advertising and innovation, to learn more about the deal. He said that at T Brand, there’s been “a lot of demand for our services beyond the walls of the New York Times,” including some experiments with influencer marketing.
And while Tomich claimed he wasn’t “actively looking” to acquire a company in this area, HelloSociety was appealing for a number of reasons, including the leadership of CEO Kyla Brennan. The plan is to continue operating HelloSociety as an independent business with Brennan at the helm, while also looking for ways to integrate the two organizations.
“This will lay the foundation of what T Brand will do in the social space going forward,” Tomich said. He later added, “There’s a broader vision to help brands think more like programmers and less like advertisers. We see T Brand playing a crucial role in that space.”