Chris Detert – CCO at Influential
Celebrities are people too, you know. And not many people on the planet know exactly how true that statement is like Chris Detert — who from his first days on the job in Los Angeles had him interacting with some of the most influential (but real) celebrities on the planet. Formerly the CEO of American Rebel PR, a boutique agency Chris started from Los Angeles, Detert now teams up with his brother, Ryan, to run the largest influencer marketing company in the world called Influential.
In his conversation with host Ryan Berman, Chris tells a few stories from his past including regular run-ins with celebrities like Britney Spears, LL Cool J and Shania Twain. Later in the episode, Chris provides invaluable advice on how he stays on top of what’s cool today. Finally, Chris shares a few tips about how he builds genuine relationships with celebrities, influencers, brand leaders and more.
Ryan Berman 0:00
This is a show about facing fear, unlocking courage, and taking action.
Speaker 2 (Female) 0:05
Courage isn't necessarily a daunting thing.
Speaker 3 (Male) 0:07
It's going to give you more purpose, it's going to give you more drive.
Speaker 4 (Male) 0:10
It feels like making a courageous decision is going to get you closer to who you aspire to be.
Ryan Berman 0:14
It’s knowledge, plus faith, plus action equals courage.
Came in as the marketing assistant when I was 24 years old. Within like a year, the CMO kind of got burnt out on the place, and she took off. I went to the owner and I said, “She just left, what now?” And they're like, “Okay, well, now it's your show.” So, 25 years old, I was the CMO of a multi-hundred-million dollar fashion brand, Von Dutch.
(Intro Music 0:35-0:42)
Ryan Berman 0:43
All right, let's start with a game. Are you ready?
Ryan Berman 0:48
Okay. So, a little bird told me you were once the lead singer in a rock star band. Can you confirm this?
(Laughs) I will not deny.
Ryan Berman 0:59
Okay. Tell me the lyrics. I'm going to read the lyrics, you tell me what song this is. Are you ready?
Ryan Berman 1:08
And I got to do my best not to give it away. So, this is why I was never a lead singer. “Where I come from isn't all that great. My automobile is a piece of crap. My fashion sense is a little wack. And my friends just [Inaudible 1:23] me. I didn't go to boarding school. Probably girls never looked at me. Why should they, I ain't nobody. Got nothing in my pocket. Beverly Hills, that's where I want to be. Living in Beverly Hills.” Well, I’ve given it away at this point. So who…
(Laughs) I was going to say, if it gets in the chorus, you're going to give it up.
Ryan Berman 1:42
All right, cool. I figured you already had it. By the way, we’re just coming out here. Can’t wait to see those guys.
Yeah, I saw them recently. They're really phenomenal, actually.
Ryan Berman 1:50
So, let's start with, did you go to boarding school?
Ryan Berman 1:57
Okay. So, this song is officially eliminated. Where I was really going with this is, like, you don't see that… At least, I haven't met that many people who grew up in Florida and made the choice to move to Beverly Hills, move to California. It's almost even impossible for me to get on a direct flight from California to Florida. So, tell me, did you know right away growing up? Like, there was some intrigue about California, or how did this come about?
Yeah. Definitely, I always felt it. I just always wanted to be something more than ordinary. My first aspirations were to be… I played football in high school, I wanted to be an NFL quarterback. I grew up to be five foot nine, so that didn't work out, obviously. And I ended up going to Pepperdine, so they didn't even have a football program. By 16, I think I realized that wasn't happening, so I changed the dream. And then yeah, I think I started to realize in late high school that I had this capability to do music. And that wasn't necessarily the driving force, I think it was an intrigue into that, but I saw this school on the hill, and it just looked like Shangri La. It was perfect. I literally didn't go and visit, I didn't care about the curriculum, like nothing. I just wanted to go to that place and spend my college formative years in Malibu, California.
Ryan Berman 3:29
And is this pre-burndown Pepperdine, or post, when did you go?
I went 97 to 01. I think that was later.
Ryan Berman 3:40
Okay, later. So, in some ways, it's like, “How fast can I get to California?” And then, when you were in college there, were you one foot in college and one foot in this curious world called celebrity, or were you pretty much in the college scene out of the gate?
You know, I was intrigued by celebrity. I enjoyed… Malibu’s quite away from Central Los Angeles where all the stuff was going. But I remember, in those early years, getting the chance to go to Skybar at the Mondrian Santino, 97, 98. It was the coolest place on earth at that point. And seeing the celebrities and being like, “Oh my God, that's so and so. That's amazing.” And yeah, I love that. But, at the same time, I was also going to college, and I was in a fraternity, and I was like… There’s 3000 undergrads, so it was a small school. Everybody knew everybody, and you didn't get out to the city all that often because it was this little cocoon of safety, and everybody was there. So, it was maybe like every couple of weekends you would venture out. A big trip would be to go to UCLA and go to the UCLA bars. And then, occasionally you get lucky and go to the Sunset Strip.
Ryan Berman 4:56
Well, I take a lot of pride in being a strategist first. And I think where we're aligned is, it's about strategy. I'm going to have to throw this down and say you win as a strategist. I went to Ithaca College in like 12 inches of snow. One of the reasons I picked it was because of their television radio school. And I liked the size of the school. I got to see new people every day, but I also ran into people I knew every day. That bubble that you talked about is exactly how I would have described Ithaca. And just in case the Dean of Ithaca is listening, I wouldn't change a day. I really wouldn't. I also don't think it’s a surprise I live in San Diego now.
Ryan Berman 5:48
So, did your brother also go to Pepperdine?
No, my brother was actually, he stayed on the Florida side of things. He went to Rollins College, which is a small undergrad school that's like kind of near Disney, like in Orlando.
Ryan Berman 6:02
Okay. Was this the first time you guys were truly separated, or was that not a…?
No, it's funny, like our whole lives… When we were young, we were together, but I ended up going to boarding school, I think, in seventh or eighth grade, and he's five years younger than me. So, he was in second or third grade. And then, we both went to boarding schools at different times in different places. So yeah. We didn't spend our teenage years much together. I came back from boarding school and lived in my hometown, at the boarding school in my hometown. And I think he was already away in a different one in Jacksonville. So yeah, we were passing ships.
Ryan Berman 6:43
You said your boarding school was in Florida?
So I did two. I did Jacksonville, Florida, which my brother later did. And then, I also did, in my own hometown of Boca Raton, Florida, did high school there. And a boarding program, so I did that too.
Ryan Berman 6:59
I just love hearing where people start. It's just cool to hear your story, and your brothers, and we'll talk about Ryan in a little bit too, and what you guys are up to now. Pretty interesting how you guys were all over the place, and now, here you are together. You guys on the rocket ship, really. But you and I do share one other thing in common, I don't know if you know where I'm going with this…
Ryan Berman 7:27
Don't worry, it’s not salacious, that's the good news before you get freaked out.
Ryan Berman 7:33
So, we both had some serious sparring with Von Dutch.
Oh, okay. I can't recall what your Von Dutch tie is, but I'm interested to hear.
Ryan Berman 7:44
Well, you go first. Like, how did you get… Were you done with Pepperdine? Was this years down the line, I'm assuming?
Yeah, definitely years down the line. In fact, after Pepperdine, I went and got a job at an entertainment management company called ‘The Firm.’ This was like 2001. This was pretty much right after 911, like two months after that. I worked there for a couple of years, that was sort of, you know, you're talking about the celebrity bug and all, I think that's really where it started for me because I was working at a company where we represented Britney Spears, and the Backstreet Boys, and then, eventually, AMG, which was Artist Management Group, Michael Ovitz’s company got bought by it. And so, then we had taken on like Leonardo DiCaprio, and Samuel L. Jackson, and [Inaudible 8:31]. And so, every day in my office, I was growing very accustomed to seeing these people all the time, and dealing in their world, and kind of realizing the value that existed with influential people, let's just say, which has been a through line of my whole career.
Ryan Berman 8:46
First of all, celebrities are people too. And it's almost sad that I have to say it like that. And it's almost sad that you can see that as a line on a T-shirt somewhere, but it's true. And Randy Jackson is someone that I remember meeting through you very briefly, and he's an absurdly talented man, but just trying to live his life. He's a human too. And we're kind of back to how we started this conversation. There's something inside a lot of people, you included, me included, it's like, I don't want to just be ordinary. I want to go out and go for it. There's some statistic that 50% of the US population was 50 miles from where they're born, which is bonkers. So, you go on this adventure, you start sort of interacting with celebrities. How does Von Dutch come into play here?
Yeah. So I had put in about two years at the firm, and, as I said, we bought Michael Ovitz’s AMG, which turned it into… It turned it from a very cool rock and roll company where everybody was like wearing chucks and jeans and stuff, and then, it became much more agency-like, like a WME sort of vibe. A lot of agency managers with the suits and like the whole, you know, that vibe. And I didn't like it, it wasn't for me. So, it was time for a change, and I was lucky enough, one of the managers there managed a band called Staind. Gail Bower was her name. And she was like, “I have this opportunity for you at this other company,” and it was called Von Dutch. I hadn't even heard of it at the time. She said, “You should go check it out.” And so, I went, and I interviewed to be like a marketing assistant there. Actually, the one thing I did remember was that Fred Durst, and Chris Cornell, who were both clients at the firm, were wearing the Von Dutch stuff. And I was like, “Oh, I think I'd seen that logo before or something.” And then, I got there, and while I'm sitting in the lobby, waiting, there's sort of a stop sign-shaped table. The glass table was just a mess of Polaroids. And it was all these pictures of celebrities all wearing their stuff. And I was like, “Damn, this is like a very celebrity-driven brand.” And it was like literally just taking off at that point. And so, I went in, and I got the opportunity. And so, I ended up taking it. Came in as the marketing assistant, I was 24 years old. And within like a year of being there, the CMO kind of got burnt out on the place, and she took off. And when she did, I went to the owner and to the head designer, and I said, “Well, she just left, what now?” And they're like, “Okay, well, now it's your show.” So, 25 years old, I was the CMO of multi-hundred-million dollar fashion brand, Von Dutch. And my main thing the whole time that I was deemed marketing, my job was mostly celebrity relations. I was dealing with all the celebrities as they came into the store, dressing them. I sort of was partially like a stylist for them. I just knew how to curate what we had in the store for them. And we could make custom things, we have a tailor on-site, so we can make custom patch jeans, and customized leather jackets. And the owner was very, like, he realized that celebrity was the brand there, so he pretty much gave carte blanche until a certain point to give celebrities whatever they wanted. And so, I was sort of like the host of this wonderful trip that they get to go on in the store. They'd come, and they'd pick out whatever they wanted. They come in, and they’d take pictures with the owner, and the head designer, and myself, and we ended up having hundreds and hundreds of pictures. And that was sort of… This was pre-social media, that was sort of like the way to get the brand out. So, we had tons of these pictures, we had them hanging all over our office. We used our, this is like web 1.0. This is like 2003 websites, and we would just constantly… We create pop-ups, pop-ups were like a new thing back then. So, we'd have a pop-up every time a celebrity would come in. We were getting tons and tons of hits to our website because people wanted to see who'd come in next. And it was literally like anybody you could imagine. We’d have Halle Berry, or Madonna, or Justin Timberlake, or Britney Spears.One day, I actually had Beyonce and Sheryl Crow show up unannounced 30 minutes apart, it was like that kind of magical environment. And some of it was me reaching and creating these situations, some of it was just kind of waiting for the celebrities to arrive, and then, wooing them, and then keeping the relationship ongoing and continuing to send them clothes and bring them back into the store and such.
Ryan Berman 13:21
It's fascinating. You don't have a crystal ball, obviously. Like the arc of your career. But here you are still in the relationships game, right?
Ryan Berman 13:35
Did you have any clue even back then that you would be here now?
No. In fact, if you told me what I was doing, you would have to like told me you're from… You're coming in a time machine because I would have been like, “What the hell is that? An influencer marketing company? What is Instagram? I don't know what you're talking about.” But considering if you were to tell me this, and then, tell me the through line to it, then it would all make sense to me.
Ryan Berman 14:00
Yeah. It's pretty cool. I'm sure once a celebrity came into the store, like you said, you're like a fashion kid silhouette. There's a trust bridge that comes with that. And I'm curious if you're still in touch with anyone. Are you really close with anyone that you met by them stumbling through that Von Dutch store?
I wouldn't say very close, celebrities are hard to keep that sort of relationship with. Hate to say, but, a lot of times, it's very transactional, sadly. But I still definitely have many of them that, if I reached out, they would instantly remember me. I have funny ones like Dennis Rodman was one of my poster boys back then, I still have his cell phone number. And I actually saw him a few years ago in an event, we started taking red carpet pictures together and he leaned on me and he goes, “You got fat.” (Laughs)Like, “Fuck you, man.”
Ryan Berman 15:05
That's love. That's love right there.
I was very skinny back then, I was the model for Von Dutch back then as well. That was a wild time.
Ryan Berman 15:11
Oh my gosh. All right. And then, how do you kind of leap from that life into your own ventures, if you don't mind me asking?
Sure. So, I think by 26, I really felt the sense to go out and make my own way. This was the third year of the arc of Von Dutch kind of going up, and then, on the parabola down. So, I didn't want to be a part of a sinking ship, I kind of saw the writing on the wall. And I had a friend of mine, actually, a mentor of mine, a guy named Jay Wilson who was an action sports guy, he came in, and he did like an assessment of the [Inaudible 15:50] and he was like, “This is a lot of trouble. There's not a lot going on that’s particularly good here, but you are a gem. I'm going to be installed as president of this new company, of this first classic Skate Company called Osiris and I'd like you to come in.” It was San Diego based, so you probably know of it, he was like, “I'd like to bring you in, run all the PR and marketing externally. You don't have to come down to San Diego except for maybe every month or so. And you can start your own business.” And so gave me a really nice retainer monthly. And I was like “Oh wow, I guess I'm going to be doing this.” So, I go in to resign at Von Dutch, and the owners like, “We can't. We can't have you leave. You're sort of the center hub of all communications and marketing for us, and we need to look steady here. So, what if I were to just allow you to work remotely, or spend some of the time here, and then, still start your entrepreneurial venture?” And so, I was like, “Okay, well, I want to keep the exact same pay that I'm getting paid now in-house to do that out.” They said, “Sure.” So, I went from having a day job to getting a huge retainer from another company, and then, also getting to keep the other. So, I was getting like triple the money that I was previously getting, and I was able to go out and go start a company. So, that was the beginning of American rebel PR in 2005. Yeah 2005.
Ryan Berman 17:14
If you were going to tell me that Von Dutch on its way down was like, “Let's take the same model, launch a clothing line, but rebrand it.” American Rebel as the name could have been the name.
I know. The other is there was exploration into that, and never ended up working out. But, trust me, if you ever saw the imagery for it, it was meant to be a clothing brand.
Ryan Berman 17:38
Yeah. Okay, cool. And I could see it, I could totally see it. I guess to put a bow on our end. And so meanwhile, somewhere in San Diego, we’re four kids out of a house who have no business starting a business. And we launched Fish Tank, we launched my first branding firm.
I remember it well.
Ryan Berman 17:59
And I don't even know how it happened, I had gotten a call from Mike Ejack. Do you know that name? That name ring a bell?
I don't, I can’t recall.
Ryan Berman 18:05
Mike had somehow stumbled into acquiring the Von Dutch brand. It wasn't just Mike, or he was about to. So, wherever it was, when you're like, “Get me off this ship.” It kept going lower, and lower, and lower.
Years, and years, yeah.
Ryan Berman 18:23
And then, that's when we got the call and like, “Hey, is this something you want to come in and help us bring back?” We didn't even do much on it. It was like brand book, places you could go with the brand. Really probably leveraging all the magic that you had created. That was the beginning of the end. It was clear that it wasn't going to be a rocket like it used to be, but it has been up and down battle for that brand. Would you be surprised if it came back again?
It has in some small ways. Kylie Jenner started wearing it a little bit, and then, that got Travis Scott wearing it a little bit. And then, it became like a TikTok thing. That was about two years ago, there was a documentary on Hulu about it. And I was asked to be in it, luckily, I did not participate because it was pretty fallacious. But I was in some of the pictures in the background, and stuff like that. But right around that time, there was this reemergence of Von Dutch, and I thought in my mind, I was like, “If they do this documentary really well, there is the prospect that this could help be a revival for the brand.” But all it was was just a complete hatchet job. The executive producer scared me in a meeting when he told me that it was going to be his tiger king. I was like, “Okay, well if you're saying that, then I don't really want to be a part of this.” And it was very much that. So, unfortunately, Von Dutch’s little reemergence is very short-lived.
Ryan Berman 19:49
So, when you think about all these sort of skipping rocks across the lake, did I also see that you produced for a little bit up there?
Yeah, like producing TV shows and stuff?
Ryan Berman 20:02
Yeah. I had a little stint of that. I was actually the star of the first episode of a TV show on MTV called MTV’s Hired, that ended up getting me a piece in The Wall Street Journal, and in the Hollywood Reporter. And basically, the concept of it was fresh out of college kids going and getting their first job and coming in interviewing with potential employers. And so, I was one of those people. And funny enough, the guy that I hired is an actor named Jay Ellis, who is one of the stars of Top Gun.
Ryan Berman 20:37
Yeah, exactly. The new rebooted version, or whatever. And then, also, at the same time, I met Dee Snider, Twisted Sister, and produced a reality show about him and his family. There was sort of (?Orla?), The Osbournes, and… Who else Gene Simmons, that was sort of that sort of vibe. It only went for like one season on A&E. But yeah, it had a couple of production credits to my name at that point. And yeah, kind of just tried to have my hands on a bunch of different things in Hollywood.
Ryan Berman 21:10
All right. If you think about, like, how they all sort of help you get to where you are today. In your mind, is there a thread?
I would say just being a tenacious communicator, like, always being willing to make the first outreach and not relent until I got what I wanted, not at the level of being annoying about things. But I think a lot of people in this world, like, when they don't get something that they want, their ego gets the better of them, and they're like, “Oh, screw that guy. I'm not going to contact him again, I already tried.” If I want something from somebody, I don't give a shit. Even at this level of my career, I obviously will practice a little bit more caution and not be badgering anybody because that's just annoying, that doesn't help you, but I've won over clients four or five years later just by staying in the picture and figuring out creative ways to follow up. I learned a long time ago, if you just start sending people emails saying, “Just checking in,” that's fucking annoying, nobody wants to hear from you asking, just saying you’re checking in because all that shows them is that you're selfishly thinking, and you're just trying to improve your situation. But if you kind of look at what's going on in their news, and their culture, and their personal life, or whatever, and then utilize that information to create a meaningful dialogue, you'll be surprised how successfully you can revive conversations that have gone dormant years earlier.
Ryan Berman 22:42
So, I'm curious how Ryan comes back into the fold. And before we even go to influential and what you guys have built there because amazing, little rumor I want to address. There is a rumor that your brother, Ryan, is actually a IBM Watson creation.
Ryan Berman 23:02
Do you just plug into the wall at the end of the night, or is he a robot or is he a human? He's a rockstar, man. It's a perfect… The work ethic is real. And do you feel like you always kind of knew, “Oh, it'd be cool to work on something together?”
No. Not at all. No clue. No. Honestly, I wouldn't have guessed it in a million years. And it didn't really come together until he moved out to LA. He saw what I was doing, and I think he thought it was exciting. We initially had kind of teamed up a little bit around American Rebel, but it was like a fashion lifestyle sort of PR company, and it wasn't his cup of tea, his vibe. But he was doing this depth for me, and he helped me get a few clients here and there. But what he really did during that time was spend time learning a new craft, and looking at an emerging business. He really introduced me to the thought of influencers and, and social marketing as it could apply to a multibillion-dollar business. At the time, there was maybe a billion or a couple of billion dollar business in total, I think, now the TAM, the total addressable market for this year is $28 billion, or something like that. But yeah, we were really at the beginning of an industry, and he was working with a couple of different people in the background. And he was kind of creating what are called niche accounts, like so on Twitter, like @travel, @fashionandstyle. What he started seeing was that brands were responding to this and even offering money to post content there, and it became this ‘aha’ moment that, wow, this could be like a business. But the overall influencer business is just starting, and it's completely the wild wild west. There's no structure to it. If you look at anything in advertising or marketing, it's all very structured, and it fits into agency, budgets, and line items, and all that sort of stuff. At this time, it was not at all. So, the beginning of our industry we were some of the innovators of it, educating people and teaching them the practice of it, why it was important, how you measure it, which has been the most critical part about. We're the biggest influencer marketing company in the world, and the reason we became that way is because we took the approach of working for the brands, not trying to represent the influencers, and to create data and structure behind it. We created AI influencer marketing like you had mentioned with IBM Watson in 2016. And that was like our first breakthrough technology. But it didn't stop with that, we kept going. And what really set us apart was the ability to actually track things like sales, put traffic into stores for clients of ours, like McDonald's. Sales at grocery stores and drugstores for CPG brands. And then being able to measure TV tune-in live. So, “Did you watch a Netflix show, or an Amazon show, or did you tune into NBC because of something that we had served you as a social ad?” So, watching the growth curve of our industry and what it's become has been astonishing and humbling to be a part of.
Ryan Berman 26:19
And I remember, in some ways, it feels like just yesterday, and it also feels like 30 years ago that I walked into your office, and who knows how many offices it was ago. And I met Ryan as well. And you guys sat me down and showed me this platform and I was just like blown away. First of all, I was kicking myself. I'm like, “Why did I…”
Ryan Berman 26:50
Again, you've outstrategized me again because here I was in this… I love creativity, and I love storytelling. But I made a choice to go into a very subjective arena. And if you're creative, you know it's gladiator every day. It's thumbs up or thumbs down. And what you guys were able to build… I remember Ryan showing me, talking about the IBM Watson part. And I was like, “This is brilliant.” And this is a show about courage, you think about the fear that a chief marketing officer has, the fear starts to shrink away when you start to see the science behind the choices. And it's their choice, right? You're just serving up here's who's like-minded with your business. So today, you've done over 100 million, I think, in campaigns. I think you've done 2 billion in measurable sales. Call me off if I’m getting any of this off.
Yeah. It's way bigger than all of that. (Laughs) I don't want to go in and start giving you specific numbers, but it's epically huge and it gets bigger and bigger every year. I think we're going to grow 50% this year. And to be at a nine-year point of our company and still be talking like that is wild. So yeah, it's amazing. Kudos to my brother for identifying this space so early on because it allowed us to get a major jumpstart. And everybody else who's come into the industry is playing from behind with us. And it's nice too because he's such a business, analytical, sort of mind, and I'm such a connector, and working with celebrities and influencers is very second nature to me. So, it's very complimentary.
Ryan Berman 28:30
Well, I also want to commend you because the universe you've played in for so long, you could have like the biggest ego in the world, and you've always been approachable, you've always been very generous with your time. You still respond to my text messages, I’ll take it.
Ryan Berman 28:50
How do you stay grounded in all this?
My favorite thing in the world is to help people, honestly. And luckily, doing that enough finds a way to help you back. But I still get the biggest satisfaction of any part of my life when I connect people, and then, greatness happens as a result of that. I love to do it for myself, but I love to do it even more for other people. And I think I will continue to be that way no matter what happens, or no matter how successful I am. And I think, as a result of that, the universe pays you back.
Ryan Berman 29:21
Is there a celebrity that you've met, I know we go back to celebrities are people too, do you get starstruck still, like, does that even exist for you?
Yeah, for sure. There's a couple of celebrities that I haven't met that are like my ‘oh my god, I don't know what I would do if I met them’ because I don't know what's super relevant thing… Maybe in the moment, I'd be fine. But I grew up a huge Broncos fan, so John Elway would definitely be one of those people. Dave Matthews would be another. Larry David. Yeah, there's a couple of people that would definitely have me starstruck, but by and large, I'm very, very used to and accustomed to these situations. And sometimes, when I don't even expect it, like I’m thrust into something, and all of a sudden… Like recently, in the last year, I've become pretty good friends with LL Cool J. I booked him for a conference called ‘Patel’ last year, I helped him get an Icon Award there. And then, also have him speaking at ‘The Possible’ conference in Miami next month, which I’ll also be on the main stage of myself. So yeah. Instances like that, like, I wouldn't have anticipated this coming. But a certain fortuitous circumstance got me into that position, and all of a sudden, because of what we do, because of our position in the world, I have access to people that would not normally be in people's access. And I provide something valuable to all of them now too. So, I could speak to them intelligently and command like a mutual respect, which is awesome.
Ryan Berman 30:49
So, in the spirit of courage, when you think about the brand, is there like… It sounds like you're always hitting the gas, but in terms of, “Okay, this might even be a little brave. This move that we're making,” is there one that's top of mind right now that you're like, “I don't know how this is going to turn out, but we're hitting the gas, and we're going for it in the space”?
Yeah. It's almost always been like that. We've always been ready to double down. We've invested personally in our business, and, for the longest time had blinders as to anything else outside of making Influential the biggest and best influencer marketing company in the world. Something that sticks out to me in the very early days was we started sort of down the early road of Influential by doing these large-scale events with influencers. And this was before there was any influencer houses, per se, that's like a big thing, TikTok culture now, or whatever. But back 2014, we actually threw the first influencer house at Coachella with the likes of Jake Paul, and Logan Paul, and all these folks. And we had this idea to do this as a marketing tool for the company. And I remember reaching out to all of the biggest publications because I come from PR background. And the most unlikely of all of them was Entertainment Tonight, and they called me back, the executive producer was like, “I'm sending you a crew.” And I was like… I was actually scared. I was like, “I don't think that she knows what I'm even talking about.” So, I call her back and actually advocate sort of against myself and say, “Listen, I want you to understand this,” remember 2014, that's what I'd say, “Paris Hilton's not going to be here, Kim Kardashian is not going to be here, you're not going to know who these people are. Your child or your niece and nephew might know, but you won't know.” And she goes, “That's interesting that you say that, Chris because we have this conversation internally where we're the world's biggest entertainment news show, but we're also the oldest skewing. And we had an internal meeting, and we said to our youngest staff members and our interns, ‘What is cool today, like, what can we do to make ourselves cool?’ And they said ‘influencers.’” And she said, “Between my faith in you, Chris, and what they told me, I'm sending you the crew.” And the reason I had the faith in her is because, years before, I had helped produce Getty Images, Gibson guitar, and Entertainment Tonight's events during Sundance on Main Street. And so, I've done that for a couple of years, so I built that rapport with her. And so, because of my great relationship with her, and because her staff had told her that was a need that they needed to fill, she ended up sending a crew out to us. And put Logan Paul on TV for the first time ever, had all these great creators. We did this piece of content, Ryan and I were interviewed. And then, at the end of the day, they wrapped up and went home. And come Monday, it's on national TV. And there's three minutes of coverage about Coachella, and two minutes and 10 seconds of it are about our little house down the street from Coachella. And then, the last 50 seconds were about the 300,000-person festival down the street. I think, at that point, I kind of knew that we were on to something really, really big.
Ryan Berman 33:53
Just another moment where it validates your intuition, and it validates you're on the path. So I guess I got to ask, and we're coming down the homestretch here, what's cool today? If you're going to give the audience three places to play in cool matters, let's say, you're going to Florida to be on the stage of ‘Possible.’ And someone's like, “Alright, Chris, three insights on what's cool today,” Where do you take us?
Yeah. I'm getting kind of old here. I'm 44, so I don't know if I'm the arbiter of cool that I once was, but there's no question that TikTok is the center of Gen Z and younger’s attention span. I think it's probably the platform right now that's doing the best job connecting with the youth generation. I also think that things like emerging technologies are very cool right now. It's not in everybody's purview, but things like just seeing like Chat GPT coming up, and all of a sudden, AI is so, so real now, and the metaverse coming along. I just formed a partnership with the Sandbox in the metaverse that we're going to be helping bring awareness to the metaverse. Using influencers on other platforms, sending them to the Sandbox and bringing brands there as well. So, I think emerging technology is very cool right now. And celebrities still remain cool. I think there's like a blurred line now between what a celebrity and an influencer is. And I think as time goes along further, it's going to be an even greater blurred line because I think that influence is going to launch anybody into celebrity, whereas, sometimes, people become celebrities in movies, or as a result of musicians, and they become influencers. I think the track… When you see like Justin Bieber, who's one of our most popular people, at 16 years old was founded on YouTube, and like that launched that kind of career. I think that's what you're going to see more and more. So, yeah. I guess in retrospect, it would be TikTok, technology, and the emergence of technology, and that blurred line of what a celebrity and what an influencer is, and how they move culture.
Ryan Berman 36:10
We didn’t even talk about athletes, and like, where do they fit in this? Is that straight into the celebrity camp? I'm showing my cards because we're in the middle of March Madness. Now, I'm going to move this episode up. But the girls from Miami, the twins. Miami just knocked off the…
Ryan Berman 36:31
Right. The whole meal game, so influencer, you want to talk a little bit about influencer real quick?
Yeah. So, I love the NIL space, that is definitely a big touch point in culture right now. I think there's an element of celebrity, there's an element of influence in these athletes. And we've actually just been working on some stuff around March Madness. And I kind of equated it as it's this magical moment where instant folk heroes are created. You’ll always remember like [Inaudible 37:08] from last year. There's just always some unlikely hero coming from this small school, or whatever, that just takes on this other worldly sort of feat. And I love that about NIL. For those who don't know what NIL is, two years ago, in July, July 1st, it basically allowed college athletes to get paid for the first time ever. And so, what was always amateur so you couldn't get paid. Meanwhile, you're watching these schools pay their coaches eight $10 million, build billion-dollar facilities, and it's sort of unfair to the athletes. And so, finally, there was enough of an upheaval about it that they were able to push it in so that kids could get paid now. And so, we are seeing through things like the national championship game, when you're talking about football through March Madness, when you're talking about basketball, like the instant, painless vacation of these people that weren't anybody the day before. It's even fun to see, some of them, you'll see they had 3 or 4000 followers, they weren't even verified on Instagram, all of a sudden, they've got 50,000-plus followers. Now Supercuts, or whoever, wants to do a deal with them. So, I think it's really exciting. We got on it very, very early. I had the pleasure of actually speaking at the first NIL summit last year, and I did it with some of our clients who was actually working with Shareef O'Neill, who is Shaquille’s son. And then, also was lucky enough to share the stage with Jerome Bettis, which was super cool. The little middle schooler me was super proud of myself. But yeah, that is such a fun space and it's so fast emerging. And it sort of reminds me of the early days of Influential where we were just trying to teach the curriculum of influencer marketing. I feel like we're teaching the curriculum with the NIL now, and I think it's one of those things that brands are dipping their toe into, but are getting increasingly more excited. And there's so many opportunities within it.
Ryan Berman 39:02
Well, I probably should have started with this. Happy anniversary. Oh, happy almost anniversary. I think we're coming up on four years with you and Lisa, correct?
Yeah. You do your research, I like it. Yeah. Four years married and eight years together. Yeah.
Ryan Berman 39:17
Are you guys going back to Italy anytime soon?
Yeah, I think we're going to go back this summer. There's a Cannes Lions coming up, which I'm doing something really big there. And then, afterwards, I think we're going to go kind of rekindle the romance in Italy.
Ryan Berman 39:32
If I run into John Elway or Dave Matthews, I will be sure to connect you. In the meantime, please send my best to Ryan, and to Lisa. And man, it’s just cool to watch you do what you're doing, and keep it up. And if you ever get down south here, stay in touch, come see me.
Ryan Berman 39:51
See you, Chris. Thanks, man. Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Courageous Podcast. If you enjoyed the show, don't forget to rate and review us on Apple podcasts so more people can find us. See you again next week.
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