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Karla Otto Doubles Down on Influencer Marketing With New Acquisition

The global fashion agency is deepening its offerings in the influencer space, a bright spot during the pandemic.
The Independents agency now includes influencer marketing firm Lefty. Courtesy.
The Independents agency now includes influencer marketing firm Lefty. Courtesy.

On Thursday, global fashion and beauty agency group The Independents announced the acquisition of Paris-based influencer marketing firm Lefty. As a result, fashion firm Karla Otto, one of The Independents’ agencies, will begin offering formal influencer marketing services.

“More than ever, agility is very important and when we talk about influencers, we see that [the space] has shown great resilience during this COVID crisis,” said Isabelle Chouvet, chief executive of The Independents. In 2017, Karla Otto and K2 merged to form The Independents, eventually also acquiring Dubai-based luxury communications agency The Qode. Prior to the Lefty acquisition, Karla Otto worked with influencers by pairing them with their brand clients, though the firm did not have an in-house platform to discover new influencers or track influencer data.

“Having these technological data capabilities will help us with the transformation of the way the agency services their clients,” she added.

The terms of the deal with Lefty were not disclosed, though its three co-founders — Thomas Repelski, Roman Berenstein and Christian Rivasseau — will become partners and shareholders in The Independents.

Karla Otto has previously worked with Lefty, which was founded in 2015, on various projects. By bringing the company under The Independents’ umbrella, it will offer Karla Otto the kinds of access to data that typically requires more resources to build out in-house. (For example, measuring the impact of an influencer campaign according to sales or earned media value.)

Lefty co-founder Repelski said that when working with clients, the firm measures the impressions on social media of an influencer campaign against the cost of a social media ad buy, while accounting for regional differences that may impact price as well — information that will be useful to Karla Otto, given its global reach. (The agency has offices in 12 cities, including London, New York and Tokyo.)

Chouvet, who launched Karla Otto’s sister agency K2 in Japan and spent much of her career based in Shanghai, said that expanding the firm’s influencer reach in Asia is its next priority. A particular area of focus is China — where key opinion leaders (or KOLs, as they are called colloquially) are integral towards driving sales of luxury brands as well as their own in what is largely a reopened economy.

The acquisition announcement comes after a year of trouble for many of fashion’s biggest public relations firms, as the pandemic forced many fashion brands to scale back their communications and marketing spending in order to preserve their wider business. (Karla Otto was not immune: at the beginning of the pandemic last April, it cut roughly two dozen employees in its New York office.)

As services like event production — a significant revenue driver for many of the largest agencies before the pandemic — came to a halt over the last year, firms have pivoted towards pandemic-proof services like influencer marketing.

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