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Advocacy marketing — the idea of getting existing customers to talk about your company and its products — is nothing new, but as marketing spend has shifted online, a number of startups have tried to figure out ways of making it more scalable. One such company is Zyper, founded by Amber Atherton, who previously featured in British reality TV show “Made in Chelsea”.

The adtech company is building a platform that lets companies identify their top fans, and therefore advocates, on various social media. It then invites these fans to join advocacy marketing campaigns that sees user-generated ‘ad’ content posted in return for various rewards and “experiences”.

Unlike so-called influencer marketing that targets people with large social followings and, Atherton tells me, can have quite low engagement, Zyper is taking a much more ‘long tail’ approach. This, for example, enables brands to reach fans who typically have as little as 500-1,000 followers on Instagram.

However, by putting these fans into cohorts that can be targeted as a much larger group and who each have high engagement relative to their individual reach, Zyper thinks it has created a form of advocacy marketing or “peer-to-peer” advertising that scales and has a much better return of investment on a CPE (cost per engagement) or CPA (cost per acquisition) basis.

More broadly, Zyper is attempting to tap into and help drive a trend that means advertising spend is moving away from more traditional online advertising, such as Google Adwords or Facebook Ads, to user-generated content.

“What we’re building is essentially ad words with people,” says Atherton. “We helps brands identify their top 1 percent of brand fans and turn them into a community of active brand advocates to create high quality UGC at scale and uplift market voice. We’re changing the public’s attitude towards targeted advertising and giving brand’s a new way to market with their customers instead of to them”.

There are two sides to the Zyper product. The first is a B2B dashboard for community managers that lets brands set up, run and monitor campaigns, including being able to intelligently target specific cohorts of micro influencers. The second is a B2C app for brand fans who have been invited to join campaigns. It lets them track progress of each campaign so that they know what is expected of them in terms of what and when to post and any rewards they get in return.

To date, Zyper customers include Walgreens, Coty, Godiva, McVities, and Bloom & Wild. In addition, the startup has just signed up as a global supplier to Unilever, and has a strategic partnership with WPP to work with the ad agency’s clients.

“We charge a dynamic Price Per Fan based on demand and supply, with brands building communities upwards of 1,000 brand fans,” adds Atherton. “Currently we offer a managed service for our enterprise level clients but next year we plan to release… a self service version of our dashboard”.

Meanwhile, I’m told Zyper has closed the second half of its seed round. This sees Downing Ventures back the burgeoning company, joining existing investors Samos Investments and WPP, and various angels including founder Simon Nixon, Propercorn founder Cassandra Stavrou, fashion entrepreneur Maxine Hargreaves-Adams, Working Title CEO Eric Fellner, and ‘AI entrepreneur’ William Tunstall-Pedoe. It brings total raised to £1.2 million. I also understand the startup is joining Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator.

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