Wattpad's ad unit eyes SEA marketing dollars with Culture Group tie-up

Wattpad Brand Partnerships, the advertising and partnerships arm of storytelling platform Wattpad, has brought on board pop culture marketing agency Culture Group to manage its content partnerships. Culture Group will offer content-based opportunities for brands to connect with Wattpad’s Gen Z audience. These include content-driven marketing programmes in a variety of formats, including audio and video content associated with Wattpad’s stories.

According to Wattpad, collaborating with Culture Group will allow it to expand its presence and profile among brands and marketers in Southeast Asia. It will also offer advertisers more opportunities to tap into Wattpad Influencers, original stories, and fan communities in Southeast Asia for brand campaigns and activations.

Chris Stefanyk, head of Wattpad Brand Partnerships, told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that Culture Group was chosen because of its alignment in being Gen Z experts and deep understanding of fandoms and culture across Asia Pacific. "Culture Group's experience in culture and entertainment driven campaigns puts us in a great position to deliver on innovative partnerships in the region," he added.

Wattpad has more than 22 million users in Asia Pacific which mainly comprise Gen Z users. Its brand and partnerships arm has produced branded story and video content commissioned by blue-chip clients such as Unilever and Globe Telecom. Globally, it works with brands including H&M, Coca-Cola, Netflix, Unilever, and National Geographic, among others. Wattpad Brand Partnerships' campaigns have covered a mix of in-story advertising, writing contests, sponsored stories from Wattpad influencers, and branded adaptations. 

"Entertainment and leisure time is at an all time high. In fact, we saw a 150% increase in new stories in the early days of COVID-19 in 2020, and today many of these stories are growing in popularity. One of our biggest learnings from 2020 is that there is more opportunity than ever for brands to tap into our community to create stories together," Stefanyk said. 

At the same time, it also learn that Gen Z is serious about social change, and Stefanyk said brands need to pay attention to this fact. "Diversity and inclusion has always been a core value at Wattpad, and in 2020 we saw significant engagement and support from stories from diverse and marginalised writers. in fact, over 45 million minutes were spent reading stories tagged #CelebrateBlackWriters in 2020," he said.

Separately, Its studio division, Wattpad Studios, has worked on projects including Slow Dancing in Singapore with Mediacorp, as well as Turn On in Indonesia with Vidio and Screenplay Entertainment. It is also collaborating with Filipino book publisher Anvil Publishing to bring Wattpad stories to bookstores with the creation of a young adult imprint named Bliss Books. The company recently announced that it will be acquired by South Korean internet conglomerate Naver, which also owns digital comics platform Webtoon.

Meanwhile, Culture Group's portfolio of brands include Riot Games in China, Vespa regionally, and youth marketing work with Globe Telecom, Charmee and Cellcard. In a statement to MARKETING-INTERACTIVE, Culture Group’s founder and president Michael Patent said the team will lead end-to-end development of Wattpad Brand Partnerships’ presence in the region including expanding market presence and profile. The initiatives include thought leadership newsletters, whitepapers and webinars, creating partnerships with forward-thinking brands, and servicing those brand partnerships in conjunction with Wattpad. 

"Working with Wattpad was a natural fit for us. Culture Group is a pop culture marketing agency, with enthusiastic Wattpad users and superfans on our staff. This gives us close proximity and an authentic understanding of the end consumer," Patent said. Thus, the team is "well-positioned to demystify and unpack" the fast changing needs to Gen Z, he explained.

"We view Gen Z as the ‘Creation Generation’ and this theme applies regardless of language and location," Patent said. According to him, Southeast Asia, and particularly Philippines and Indonesia, have thriving fandoms and writer communities. The youth segment are thriving with new tools that have enabled them to find their voice and express narratives which they can call their own.

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