(New York Post) An eight-year-old marketing firm out of San Francisco was responsible for Bud Light’s partnership with Dylan Mulvaney – and the disastrous tie-up sent the firm into “serious panic mode,” The Post has learned.
Captiv8, a San Mateo Calif.-based firm that pairs social-media influencers with major consumer brands, is the outfit that introduced Anheuser-Busch to the 26-year-old transgender actress — resulting in a viral TikTok video that has since become a textbook case of marketing gone wrong, sources close to the situation said.
Nationwide backlash over the video — which unleashed a firestorm when it was posted April 1, showing Mulvaney holding a Bud Light can while taking a bubble bath — sparked anxiety and confusion inside Captiv8’s offices during the initial days of the controversy, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
“There was a lot of chatter” among employees about what blowback the firm might face over the botched campaign, according to the source.
Krishna Subramanian is the co-founder and chief executive of influencer firm, Capitv8.AWNewYork/Shutterstock
“Internally, the company was in serious panic mode,” the source added.
It couldn’t immediately be learned whether Captiv8 — which claims to have a database of more than 1 million influencers on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and Twitter — was also responsible for the now-infamous Bud Light beer can that bore Mulvaney’s image. It also wasn’t clear whether Captiv8 played a direct role in producing Mulvaney’s TikTok video.
Captiv8 didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.
Co-founded in 2015 by Krishna Subramanian — a Silicon Valley investor who sold online ad network BlueLithium to Yahoo in 2007 for $300 million — Captiv8 has worked with Walmart, American Express, Twitter and KraftHeinz, according to its website.
Subramanian has made himself available for media interviews as an expert on influencer marketing.
In February, he spoke to The Wall Street Journal about the importance of viral videos around blockbuster ad events including the Super Bowl.
“The best way to think about TikTok is that it’s a vehicle that takes a consumer to the checkout line,” Subramanian told the paper.
Captiv8 works with more than one million influencers and connects them with companies like Anheuser-Busch.
A two-minute video on Captiv8’s website depicts a tour of a swanky office where influencers like Zion Clark, an athlete who was born without legs, is seen pumping iron and Olivia Sui, a Chinese-American actress, tells viewers that there are over “30 million creators” on Captiv8’s marketplace to “discover.”
But that’s just a “staged advertisement,” according to a source, who said Capitv8’s real office is a small space in San Mateo that can accommodate about a dozen staffers. Most of the company’s 100-odd employees work remotely.
Captiv8 appears to have returned to “business as usual” following the initial panic set off by the Mulvaney crisis, according to the source.
Bud Light parent Anheuser-Busch InBev, which also didn’t respond to requests for comment, has been tight-lipped on the origins of the ill-fated Mulvaney campaign. The company placed two executives — Alissa Heinerscheid, the vice president of marketing, and her boss, Daniel Blake — on leave in April.