Why big brands flock to YouTube star Tanya Hennessy

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 14 November 2017
Tanya Hennessy [Image: Tanya Hennessy website]

Tanya Hennessy hates being called an influencer, despite working with some of Australia's biggest brands and having a following of nearly one million on Facebook.

Samsung, Amex and Tourism NT are just some of the brands that have recruited Hennessy to star in their advertising campaigns this year. But for her, branded content is less about the company and more about the content opportunities.

"It's not about the brand, it's about creating f*cking good content," Hennessy tells AdNews.

"I just want to make really good f*cking content and it doesn't matter to me if it's sponsored or not. I just want to be the funniest person I can be."

Australian Hennessy is known for her parody videos, such as ‘Things people say to make-up artists’ and ‘Realistic winged eyeliner tutorial’, with most of her clips sky-rocketing to millions of views.

It's Hennessy's authenticity that has also landed her content deals with news.com.au and Yahoo7, and led to Channel Ten hiring her to recap Bachelorette episodes for an online series.

Hennessy's most successful videos are her parody make-up tutorials

While often labelled as an 'influencer' or vlogger, Hennessy started her career in radio in 2012, climbing her way up the ladder to take over the breakfast shift for Hit 104.7 Canberra on the Ryan and Tanya show. It was during her radio career where she was introduced to Jules Lund, the founder of influencer platform Tribe.

In 2015, Hennessy emailed Lund her resume and he recommended she start doing two-minute videos on Facebook and YouTube.

Her first video hit 1.3 million views in three days, which back in 2015 was a "huge deal", she says.

“It shook my life and everything changed from then,” Hennessy says. “I wouldn’t be in this space if if it wasn’t for Jules.”

Hennessy has had a number of requests from brands following the success of her videos, but says she turns down 95% of offers.

“I want to say 'yes' to everyone, but I’ve learnt that’s not the best way to go about it,” she says, adding the brand she partners with has to back her approach.

“Sometimes brands see your followers and decide they will partner with you because they want access to those people, but they have to like what I do for me to get involved.

“You want a brand to believe in what you do and not fuck with you and ask for compromises.”

This Samsung campaign features Hennessy alongside former AFL Chris Judd and blogger Bec Judd discussing their “joy of missing out”, which Hennessy says was perfect for her because she loves staying home in her pyjamas.

For Amex, Hennessy created a “Things people say at wine tastings” video, which has already pulled nearly 400,000 viewers.

Speaking about her ads for NT Tourism, Hennessy says the brand let her have total control over the direction of the content and “even let her speak about meth”.

The NT Tourism ad starring Tanya Hennessy

Another reason why Hennessy cringes at the word influencer is because it’s often a word used to describe Instagram models that promote Skinny Me Tea or teeth whitening – products Hennessy promises you won’t see on her social feeds.

“There are so many Instagram models out there and I won’t be another one because I have more to say,” she says, adding she hopes to be a role model to women who don’t fit the image perpetuated on social media.

"Because of my parody make-up videos people think I’m a beauty blogger and they send me free mud masks and ask me to create content.

“That’s one of my biggest frustrations around the digital space. People don’t understand your worth and I find it disrespectful that my content is considered of equal value to a mud mask.”

Hennessy is moving away from her full-time gig on radio next year to focus on other opportunities, telling AdNews she'd love her own television show in the future.

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