Tyra Banks may have returned to a revived “America’s Next Top Model” last month, but Covergirl, its beauty sponsor during Seasons 3 to 18, is on to greener, more pixelated pastures.
On Monday, the cosmetics brand debuted a six-episode YouTube series with Allure called “Allure Incubator,” a bootcamp of sorts for five up-and-coming beauty influencers. In challenges testing everything from their makeup skills to their business savvy, competitors fought to become one of Covergirl’s influencer ambassadors. All recruits will also be tapped for editorial and branded-content opportunities with Allure.
Fresh off a brand relaunch, the cosmetics brand’s move represents another attempt to regain relevance with today’s beauty consumer, one who is spending more and more time online where a community of cosmetics and skin care–obsessed influencers is thriving.
Where its former partner tapped into an aspirational fantasy of life as a top model, Covergirl’s new show with Allure takes a more accessible approach, helping average beauty lovers reach social media fame. The combined Instagram followings of host Jasmine Sanders (2.7 million) and judges including Allure’s editor-in-chief Michelle Lee (42,000), designer Rebecca Minkoff (798,000) and social media star Dulce Candy (1.1 million) demonstrate they have experience in that department.
“There’s been a radical shift in the last five years, due to the rise of the influencer,” said Brent Poer, president of content at Zenith, the production agency that has partnered with Covergirl on these shows since its first season of “Top Model.” In the past, editorial credits were the creme-de-la-creme for a new product or collection, he said. “There’s a whole other space to tap into now. You want endorsements from the influencers, or enthusiasts, who are engaged in the category and are loved by fans.”
That shift, and the larger trend towards digital, has changed how the beauty brand is tackling its latest show.
No need for networks
The first six seasons of “Top Model” aired on UPN, until it merged with The WB to create The CW in 2006. It lived there until it was temporarily cancelled in 2015 and has since been scooped up by VH1. “Allure Incubator,” on the other hand is available to watch on Allure’s website and Covergirl’s YouTube channel — outlets where influencers and their fans are more likely to be spending time.
While Poer is quick to note that he doesn’t believe television is dead, he does concede that showing content in multiple ways is crucial for success today.
There’s also more flexibility in terms of timeline and the content itself, without a separate, overarching network enforcing strict guidelines.
“A lot of times, people jump the gun and say, ‘This is a great idea; let’s take this to television,’ only to find out halfway through that it’s not the most robust concept in the world, and it’s too thin to stretch into a format that’s 44 minutes long,” he said.
Digital, on the other hand, allows brands and content creators to ensure they have proof of concept before making a larger investment in a new idea. “It’s a great testing ground,” he said, noting that YouTube has fewer checks and balances than your average network.
Cheaper, speedier production
Unlike “Top Model,” which was always shot in multiple locations over a series of weeks, digital series like “Allure Incubator” can be shot on one set in a day. “They’re a lot faster for us to produce, from concept to production to distribution,” said Poer.
As with most web series, Covergirl’s new show relies on much shorter episodes, at only 13 minutes.
While Poer would not comment on differences in spend, he hinted that the investment required from all parties today is less than before. “There are economies of scale,” he said.
New consumption habits
With the prevalence of streaming opportunities online and the option to record shows for later viewing, today’s viewers are much less likely today to tune in every week at a certain time to watch a show. That’s especially true on the internet, said Poer: “We’d be left having to find an audience again and again each week.”
Instead, many consumers like to watch or “binge” a show in one straight shot. To satisfy this, Covergirl and Allure dropped all six episodes of their show at once, which run a little over 60 minutes altogether.
So far, the first and last episodes have the most views, at 61,848 and 54,358, respectively.
An uptick in promotion
When “America’s Next Top Model” first began, Facebook was in its infancy and Myspace wasn’t being used as a promotional arm in the way social media is today. Now, with numerous social platforms per every brand and influencer, there are ample opportunities to promote a show.
“To be a modern marketer, you need to leverage every potential voice and asset you have,” said Poer, noting that’s why everyone involved in “Allure Incubator” received a social brief, detailing how and when they should promote the show online.
“The people we chose to be on the show were very intentional,” he said, of the host and judges. “They can use their platforms to drive awareness and consideration to tune in, which has a big impact.”