CAA has inked a development deal and partnership with Sweety High, which tailors video content, and lifestyle and commerce offerings for Gen Z audiences.
Sweety High has created multiple scripted video series and launched an influencer network called Social Impact. It’s also rapidly expanding its Gen Z management roster, including talents like Lilly K and Jena Rose. Last year, the platform experienced 400% growth with 230 million monthly viewers across social and editorial channels as well as 10.2 million TikTok followers.
Variety spoke with Sweety High CEO Frank Simonetti about how the partnership came about, how Gen Z trends shifted during the COVID-19 pandemic and what the future holds for the industry.
How did Sweety High get started?
Sweety High is a Gen Z-focused platform and we’ve been around for over 10 years. The reason that we started it is because when millennials came out, they called them the cord-cutters, they couldn’t understand them philosophically or in terms of their digital prowess, so we knew that Gen Z would just be one big step further. I came from movies and television and my partner, Veronica Zelle, came from music and commercials. We were both in youth culture for a long time. Gen Z requires a very large amount of content, the right talent and a very agile distribution footprint that can move platform to platform. We learned a lot about them and the key piece was that they wanted things that were authentic to their own experience and voice.
What is Social Impact?
We have a lot of deep relationships with Gen Z so Social Impact is the growth arm of our business. It’s got a 750 million reach, and a lot of it just came about because we were already working with all this talent and all these influencers. Gen Z is now 40% of the U.S. population and they’re responsible for almost a trillion in spending. COVID only accelerated digital consumption. It was a boom time.
How does Sweety High stay on top of these trends?
It’s really just two parts.
One is because we’re publishing thousands of pieces of content a month. Everything is tracked, and there’s a data piece of it. We’re publishing data, like food is working this month, but it’s only working if it’s a how-to. Or music, these sounds are working because COVID has made it so that people want music that’s more upbeat. Those sort of macro trends present themselves in the aggregate in the data.
The other is the anecdotal side. Social Impact has hundreds of influencers in it, many of which we have deep, personal relationships with. We’re basically having a direct dialogue with a lot of the popular kids in Gen Z on a minute-to-minute basis. That’s not a virtue of ours, that’s just a must-have for the business to run effectively. Your ability to hop from trend to trend is the most important part of the business, even more so than the data. The data can only tell you so much, but the kids are going to tell you everything in real-time.
What are some of the dominant characteristics in the content you are promoting?
The content has to be really good and sticky, meaning you’re making a bunch of videos, but only putting the money across the couple that test well out of the gate. You can’t be too precious about the content, you have to be willing to hear what the markets are saying. And then the talent has to be on point. Certain influencers with big followings just may not net well for a certain show or song, whereas micro-influencers might be way more effective.
It might be that someone has a great song that will do really well with the foodies, but it’s not going to do as well with the hip-hop kids. That’s not as obvious sometimes to an advertiser or a partner because it just seems like, ‘This is about x, all the kids who care about x are gonna like it.’ That might not be a big enough bucket. When companies come to us, they’re basically saying, ‘Get traction on this.’ Traction today is views and engagements, and engagement is like, comment, share. What the market is looking for now is not just good creative, but real traction.
With this new development deal with CAA, what are the top objectives you would like to accomplish?
The super top line is to further expand Sweety High’s market-leading position. Frank Jung and his team are really great and they understand the digital ecosystem as it exists now. In terms of the year ahead, we’re leaning a lot more into music and making a lot of different shows, both short and long-form, which is the bread and butter area for CAA. Also, talent is a big piece. We’re constantly seeing all the talent very early. Some of them will become signed to Sweety High and CAA can help elevate them.
Where do you see the market shifting in the next few years?
Gen Z is going to be the Sherpa of what goes on in terms of our media and what we’ll accept from it. What quality level, what level of inclusion and diversity, all of these touchstone issues that you see bubbling up in political and social discourse in America. I’m sure you see this when you go down the rabbit hole on YouTube, but the algorithms are getting so specific, that I think it’s going to raise the bar for the products we put in the market, both on the entertainment and media side, and in everything else. There’s a lot of choice and you’re going to be able to hone in very quickly.
This interview has been edited and condensed.