LOS ANGELES — Actress Brittany Furlan was killing time waiting for her phone to ring. Bored, she started goofing around with the Vine app on her iPhone, making wacky short videos.
Within days, her posted videos started developing a following. Within just a few months, it had grown to over 3.1 million.
A Hollywood agent called to represent her. Then, out of the blue, she got e-mails from brands such as Wendy’s, Trident Gum and Benefit Cosmetics to make sponsored funny Vine videos.
“All from an app,” she says. “Isn’t it unbelievable?”
Vine, now owned by Twitter, was launched earlier this year and has emerged as one of 2013’s most popular apps. It’s grown from 13 million users in the spring to more than 40 million now. Like many other video apps, Vine offers tools to create short videos. Vine clips must be no longer than six seconds; they play in a never-ending loop. That tiny burst of screen time is what has clearly appealed to performers who have to cram a lot in, quickly.
Facebook’s popular photo-sharing app Instagram responded to the popularity of Vine’s short-burst video this summer by expanding into video, with 15-second video clips. However, the app is still overwhelmingly used for photos, without corporate input on videos.
The Viners, as they’re called, have used the tools to film pratfalls, bawdy humor and stunts — the sort of stuff that appeals to folks with extremely short attentions.
Vine has gotten so big, so fast, that marketers clearly have taken notice.
“Vine is a big up-and-coming channel,” says Claudia Allwood, director of digital marketing for Benefit Cosmetics. “It’s what our consumers are into. They don’t have the attention span to watch for three minutes. But they will stay tuned for six seconds.”
Brands years ago discovered YouTube, where fans have created stars out of newcomers like Shane Dawson, iJustine, Freddie Wong and Rhett & Link. They attract millions to their weekly videos — and brand attention as well.
As Benefit’s digital marketing chief, Allwood spends time looking for the next big venue for online audiences. Next up is Snapchat, she believes, the app where photos and videos are shared and then disappear within 10 seconds.
But this year, she says, it’s all about Vine.
She doesn’t mind the raunchy nature of some of the videos, nor does she instruct her paid Viners on what to do in the Vines they create for her. “I want them to just be themselves” and talk directly to their audience, she says.
Furlan’s friend Andrew Bachelor is also huge on Vine. Known as King Bach, he’s best-known for his six-second back flips to his 2.9 million followers. Bach and Furlan often work together in Vines.
He started getting the brand calls too, but after accepting the first one from Samsung he’s declined the others. ” I don’t like to advertise on my Vine,” he says. “I started it for fun, and want to continue that way. I just want to showcase my talent.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that his Vine exposure helped get him a part on the Showtime series House of Lies and an upcoming pilot for BET.
Can you get rich making Vine videos for marketers?
Not yet. Performers are getting anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 per video — not bad for a six-second production, and companies tend to order several at one time.
For brands, working with Vine performers is an effective way to reach the audience.
Young folks look at Vine videos every day “and see these people as an extension of their own friends,” says James McFadden, a co-founder of Collab Creators, which works with performers to set up brand deals. “It’s a great way to reach the target audience and engage them in a different way.”
Twitter, which is planning to go public with an IPO that could raise as much as $11 billion, declined to make Vine execs available for comment.