Brat cofounder Rob Fishman is using talent to get brands on board his YouTube-focused media company


Brat Extra Campaign

  • Two-year-old Brat is finally generating ad revenue.
  • The YouTube-focused media company has hired a sales force and run campaigns for Universal Pictures and Mars Wrigley so far. 
  • Cofounder Rob Fishman said the ads work because they feature actors who star in Brat’s own shows.
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Teen-aimed media company Brat   launched in 2017 to capitalize on young audiences’ migration to YouTube by making high-quality, original shows. 

Now it’s starting to generate ad revenue, having grown to to 3.2 million YouTube subscribers and logging 30 million monthly YouTube views in May.

Read more: Clevver’s Joslyn Davis and Lily Marston talk about launching a new YouTube media startup after the implosion of Defy

Armed with $42.5 million in funding from A. Capital, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Anchorage Capital and Advancit Capital, among others, Brat spent its first year and a half building shows including “Chicken Girls,” “Zoe Valentine” and “Total Eclipse,” all set in a fictional town, “Attaway.” 

Now, cofounder Rob Fishman is borrowing from the playbook he had at his last company, Niche, which worked with video creators to develop custom ads for brands. Fishman sold Niche to Twitter for around $50 million. 

In May, Brat started building its first sales operation, hiring Twitter vet Terra Sollman; Jen Wolosoff, a BuzzFeed alum; Lauren Gorman, from Snap; Lauren Diener from Twitter; and Ryan Lee, from Salesforce.

Brat created ads for Universal Pictures’ “Happy Death Day 2U,” a PG-13 horror movie; and Mars Wrigley Confectionery’s Extra Refreshers gum. For Extra Refreshers, Brat created three 60-second advertisements with actors from Brat’s shows. The campaign also included in-episode commercials, Instagram TV commercials, and a sponsorship of the premier of Brat vampire show “Red Ruby.” 

Fishman said 70 percent watched through the entire 60-second Extra Refreshers ad that ran at the beginning of “Chicken Girls,” whose episodes run around 20 minutes.

“We run pre-roll in front of our videos all the time, but this custom spot we made for Extra that we aired was the first time hundreds of our fans commented on it,” Fishman said. “It’s so much more effective when you see the stars you know, in the shows you know, speaking out about a campaign, rather than an interrupted advertisement that doesn’t really connect to the content whatsoever.”

Brat focuses on emerging teen talent

Brat casts popular talent for its scripted, teen-focused shows. With 62 full-time employees, Brat functions like a traditional television network, working with talent agencies to cast stars from a diverse set of platforms. 

“Part of our strategy has been to cast extremely popular talent for this generation,” Fishman said. “It’s a very symbiotic relationship. As much as we are gaining exposure to their audiences of all the different talent who work with us, they are getting the opportunity to play a character or headline a show.”

Lead actors in Brat’s shows include teen TV stars Anna Cathcart, who started in Netflix’s “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” Mackenzie Ziegler, from “Dance Moms,” who recently appeared on “Dancing with the Stars Jr,” and Francesca Capaldi, from Disney’s “Dog with a Blog” and “The Peanuts Movie.”

Its biggest hit, “Chicken Girls,” about a group of friends navigating life, love and high school, stars Annie LaBlanc, who got her start on her family’s vlog channel Bratayley, which has 7 million YouTube subscribers.  

The show is in its fourth season and often gets more than 10 million views per episode.

Brat’s pitch to actors is that the company lets them get involved creatively and in multiple ways. Its actors produce original songs and music videos on YouTube, work with the company on articles that run on, and advise on campaigns.

“Once that talent comes into our ecosystem, playing a role is probably the most important thing that they do, but from there, they might be in one of our hosted vertical shows on Instagram TV,” Fishman said.

One of its stars, Emily Skinner, appeared on Disney’s “Andi Mack” and now is in Brat’s “Crown Lake” and “Total Eclipse.”

“I think it’s helped my career because I have gotten to play so many different characters,” Skinner told Business Insider. “Brat lets us have more say in our characters. They let us go in and help with the creative process, which is really awesome, because with most networks you have no say in that.”

Brat also makes money from branded merchandise sold through Amazon, and licensing through Spotify and Apple from their in-house music production, but sees most of its revenue coming from direct ad sales.

It still has to compete for views and brand attention with the likes of much bigger AwesomenessTV with 7 million YouTube subscribers and Nickelodeon, with 6 million subscribers, not to mention scores of individual YouTubers’ channels, however.

Fishman conceded the competition is stiff. “We are going up against people like Nickelodeon and Disney who have decades of history and IP to sell. We on the other hand had to create all of that from scratch.”  

SEE ALSO: Rob Fishman wants to make iconic TV for teens in the YouTube era

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