Tumblr has already helped millions of artists and creators build cult followings online. Now, the New York City-based blogging platform wants to help those people become commercial successes in the real world, too.
Recently, Tumblr announced the launch of the Creatrs Network, a sort of creative agency for Tumblr bloggers that will help connect them with brands and other organizations that want to use Tumblr artist content in their ads and marketing. The new division, which Tumblr has been testing with a hand-selected cohort of artists, has been in development for a year. Already, brands like AT&T, Universal Pictures, and Gap have worked with Tumblr artists to develop original content that can be featured on their Tumblr pages, as well as other platforms. Illustrations by one creator, Trace Loops, were recently featured in the background of an episode of The Voice.
The appeal for artists is obvious. This network gives them access to potentially gargantuan audiences they probably never would have reached otherwise, and Tumblr pays the artists their regular rate for the work. And for brands, Tumblr is promising access to the very artists who have helped make Tumblr a user-engagement powerhouse.
“We think the creative class is really the next generation that’s going to come up and change the world,” says Tumblr Head of Creative Strategy David Hayes, “and we think we have the largest creative class of any platform.”
In many ways, what Tumblr is doing on behalf of its creators is similar to what YouTube has done for its own community. Earlier this year, YouTube announced it was going to begin running ad campaigns featuring YouTube stars in an effort to turn them into mainstream celebrities. Meanwhile, the company has begun opening its own studios for video creators in cities from Los Angeles to New York to Tokyo. With Creatrs, Tumblr is doing much the same thing. By turning their biggest stars into even bigger stars, these platforms stand to expand their reach exponentially.
For Tumblr, this will also become a revenue stream. Now, rather than simply offering brands tools like sponsored posts and entrusting the brands themselves to come up with the ads, Tumblr can connect brands with the people who will make that content, as well. Brands will join the Tumblr Creatrs Network, outline their goals for a given campaign with the team, and the team will present the company with a hand-picked selection of artists from a pool of 300 Tumblr users who are currently part of the network. And according to Hayes, who previously worked as vice president of digital marketing at Lionsgate Entertainment, the whole process drastically reduces the time it would take for a brand to work with an ad agency on a given piece of promotional content.
“We’re super super proud of the fact that Tumblr powers the world’s best content,” Hayes says. “The idea that Tumblr will power the best advertising campaigns on Tumblr and on Facebook an on Instagram and on YouTube and on display banner campaigns and their websites, it totally makes sense to us. Coming up with a structure that allowed us to do that took a little bit of time.”
Creators who Tumblr selects for the network get more than just publicity, too. Creatrs promises them access to legal assistance as they develop contracts and broker licensing deals. “We will take a much more aggressive stance, as far as protecting artists’ work,” Hayes says. They pay the artists for their content—some $250,000 over the last year of tests—and guarantee they’ll get credit for their work, regardless of where it appears online or in the real world.
Tumblr has also launched an internal program, simply known as Creatrs, through which it will select 10 high-performing artists and match them not just with brands, but with other opportunities like book deals, live events, or the chance to teach classes and seminars at universities. For now, creators have to be selected and can’t sign up on their own, but that may soon change as Tumblr continues to test the model and see increased demand from advertisers.
Zachary T. Brown