Whalar Stars is Whalar’s in-house 360-degree talent management division. Our mission is to empower, advise and inspire our talent, not control them. As the influencer space evolves, the possibilities of what digital-first creators can do is limitless. Regardless of background or discipline, this is growing far beyond the realms of Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and TikTok, and we are too.
Lauren arrived at Whalar with a background in both traditional and digital media. Having experience in both sides of the industry, and after sensing a gap in the market, she launched the talent division of Whalar almost two years ago. She is now Global Director of Whalar Stars, and oversees the management of over 60 Talent globally, including award winning Creators such as @allthatisshe, @life.of.aivax, and @lornaluxe.
Some say Lauren arrived at Whalar with stars in her eyes....
What was your journey to Whalar?
My first job was as a runner for ITV. Then I went to SO Television, who produce the Graham Norton Show, and worked my way up to Office Co-ordinator before moving back to ITV to join Good Morning Britain as a Researcher. I then left the TV world for 3-4 years at Gleam Futures before joining Whalar!
How and why was Whalar Stars formed?
I felt the space had evolved so much during my time at Gleam so was interested to see what other opportunities were surfacing as a result. I’d worked with Whalar once before when I managed an influencer called Niomi Smart who’d collaborated with the platform, so I knew a little about how they operated. It transpired throughout the interview that Whalar was looking to open a talent management agency. They felt there was a demand for it off the back of some of the creators they’d been speaking with, such as OG Stars like @allthatisshe, and other influencers we were using on back to back campaigns. At the time we felt there was a demand for a talent management division that wasn’t being met and believed it was something they could offer to their go-to creators.
Speaking to the Founders, I noticed a gap in the market over long contract lengths and exclusivity. I didn’t think it was fair, particularly for creators who had been self-managing for years suddenly having to hand everything over to an agency. I felt we needed to prove our worth to Talent first, then they would naturally loop us in
What makes Whalar Stars different from other talent management agencies?
The main thing is more flexibility. We were looking to empower talent, not control them. Another USP is platform priority.
I pitch this to the talent by outlining how they effectively have two sales teams, their manager and assistant working on their personal business, then they also have our core Whalar business team, who mark them as a priority on the platform. It basically means whenever Whalar is trying to fill a brief, they will always look to the stars first. We don’t shoehorn talent in to projects if they’re not right, it just increases your chances of getting good work.
What skills do the managers need to manage a diverse roster but maintain good relationships with all of them?
Entrepreneurial, intuitive, super organisation skills and ballsy. They need excellent communication skills and passion for the industry, it’s really not a 9-5. You might have to manage 8 talent who have 10 campaigns at any given time. We always need to be one step ahead - if we send them a brief and talent reply with a dozen questions, then we haven’t done our job right. We should be answering their questions before they ask them.
Encouraging Creativity off the grid.
As Talent Managers, our job is to ensure longevity for Creators. We’re not just looking to take them on for three months, make as much money as we can and then toss them aside. A big part of this is identifying opportunities outside the scope and ensuring diverse, regular revenue streams. So if Instagram was to fall off the face of the earth tomorrow, careers don’t come to a short end. Off the internet, we look into ideas around books, clothing lines, podcasts and enlisting more traditional press to broaden talent audience.
Key ingredients for managing collaborations for brand and influencers.
We try and avoid scripts, brands partner with creators for their personal tone of voice - if we miss that, it’s not going to be engaging for their audiences. Attention to detail is crucial, when we negotiate with a brand we try and get all of the background straight away. Genuine affiliation with the brand to maintain authenticity, ideally the creator would have already mentioned the brand editorially and organically.
How has the industry improved in the past 3 years?
There’s definitely more transparency around fees. Talent are now more wiser about where their content is being used, for how long and are being more proactive with the questions they’re asking brands. When Creators were just starting out, you’d see talent content on billboard or the underground, and we had very little control. It’s now more regulated and structured. #Ad has made collaboration very clear. Influencer marketing is now taken more seriously, marketers now see the value in it, whereas before there were question marks around if it actually worked - now we’ve got millions of case studies to prove digital marketing has overtaken traditional.
Before, so many brands would have expected talent to make content for free. Which is actually quite insulting. You and I don’t go to work for free, Creators have a skill, craft and audience, and it’s not available for free.
If you could manage any talent from any era, who would it be?
Beyonce. She’s a triple threat so I could be at Glastonbury with her one month, designing sportswear for Ivy Park, and on the Dreamgirls set the next!
To close out, why choose Whalar Stars?
Firstly, I would recommend that if a talent is at the stage where they’re looking for management, I would advise them to speak to 3-4 different management agencies. Everyone's very different, agencies offer contrasting services; ultimately it’s about you connecting with the person managing you. Speaking to that person all day every day, there has to be good chemistry, you have to be on the same wavelength.
Stars are completely transparent, we never try and get someone to do anything they don’t want to. We are very respectful, we provide opportunities and offer advice, but ultimately it’s their career and their decision.
Our whole connection with Whalar and everything Whalar stands for, is a principle we try and emulate. We take inspiration from collaborations such as the #TakeYourSeat collaboration with the UN, and try to encourage our own talent to use their platforms for positivity wherever they can.
For any questions on Whalar, or Whalar Stars, please don't hesitate to contact firstname.lastname@example.org . For more information, head to whalar.com/stars
Banner illustration from Whalar's Head of Design, @fybe.one