Call of the Wild: Exploring Jungle Creations’ rapid growth with CEO Melissa Chapman

by | Jun 16, 2023 | Feature

Melissa Chapman is CEO of Jungle Creations, a social first publisher that distributes high quality content across a portfolio of media brands. Founded in 2014 on the back of a single Facebook page, the company now reaches 145m followers. This is via brands such as VT, Twisted, Craft Factory, Level Fitness, Four Nine, Lovimals and Futur3ology.

Jungle’s rapid growth has not gone unnoticed by investors. Private equity firm Livingbridge took a majority stake in the firm last year. Subsequently, the company has further diversified its business base. It has seen increased activity around brand extensions and the launch of social-first creative agency, The Wild.

This week, Chapman spoke to The Drop about the innovative spirit that has underpinned Jungle’s rapid growth. In the process, she outlined the company’s business model and identified priorities to stimulate further growth.

What brought you to Jungle Creations?

MC: I joined Jungle when I was in my final year at university, as one of the first employees in the business. I applied for a part-time position to gain some experience while I finished my dissertation, but ended up falling in love with the space and the opportunity. I wrapped up my dissertation in a week and was given authorisation to finish university early in order to join Jungle full-time. Fair to say, I haven’t looked back.

What was the plan at the start and how has it evolved over the years?

 MC: When I joined Jungle, we were one Facebook page, one website and one media brand – VT. We had less than a million followers and our strategy was mostly written editorial, taking people from our FB page to our website to monetise them there. While this model is still a part of the overall jungle ecosystem – there has been dramatic evolution and change. I’d love to say this was all very forward-planned, strategic and methodical – however, it was much more scrappy and organic than that.

I think the beauty and secret to having scaled from a small business, team of three, doing less than £200,000 revenue a year, up to the team of 130 – with multi-million review and profits – has involved not being wedded to a plan. Our collective inexperience back then meant we weren’t afraid to rip up the archaic media rule books and reinvent and create a new model. We do believe that we carved out our own unique new-gen media and marketing business from this.

It’s important to also note – lol – that given our size and scale now, things are a lot more strategic, structured and methodical. However, I am absolutely committed to not losing that spirit of innovation and invention that drove us to where we are today.

How would you summarise the company’s activities now?

MC: Jungle today is a publisher-powered social agency. We have 145 million followers from a portfolio of seven interest-led media brands & we work with digital content creators and clients to unlock social and drive real results. We’re experts in social platforms, creating content, building and nurturing communities, driving success for creators and influencers & knowing not just ‘what’s now’ in culture and social – but ‘what’s next’.

Underpinning all of this is our irreverent approach to invention – how we’ve been able to create ‘phygital’ tension (where physical and digital worlds collide) and make what happens online transcend into the real world. I think everyone is aware of the scale, reach and audience potential on socials – but some are less convinced about the ROI, or the real world impact. We’ve mastered this and proven the art of possible.

Can you illustrate with a ‘phygital’ example?

MC: The best example is our food & drink brand Twisted. Born as a Facebook page, Twisted now has delivery-restaurants all across London, has published two cookbooks, has launched a beer that was sold in Co-Ops, has a market stall in London, and has a range of products in all Iceland stores across the UK.

Who is/are your target audience(s)?

MC: We’ve got both a B2B and B2C lens. Through our publishing portfolio, we’re targeting consumers to engage with and interact with our media brands. Given our portfolio sits across a range of interest verticals: entertainment, female lifestyle, fitness, food & drink, parenting and DIY (to name a few), we have a vast audience pool – so it’s global, all genders and all ages. However we tend to specialise in Gen Z & Millennials. We also launched Jungle Creators last year, so the best upcoming creator talent is also an audience we look to appeal to and build relationships with.

In parallel, through our social agency The Wild, another target audience is brands & clients that want to unlock the power of social. We see our publishing arm as a real superpower and USP here, because we get their brand category better than anyone else. We constantly surface data and insights on their target markets, we understand the platforms and the dramatic algorithm shifts better than anyone else, and we’ve proven and modelled ROI and real-world action with social as the vehicle for this.

What difference has last year’s investment by Livingbridge made?

MC: It wasn’t actually investment in the traditional sense. At the end of 2021, we sold a majority stake of the business to private equity firm Livingbridge. This didn’t mean an injection of cash into the business. What the PE partnership has really introduced to Jungle is more ‘grown-up’ ways of operating, thinking and growing.

What is the fundamental business model?

MC: Initially, it was all about driving revenue from platforms. Beyond that we now look to build and scale multiple revenue lines from each media brand. Referring to Twisted again, we look to monetise across all the major social platforms. With the power of the brand we can also launch a podcast, sell books, products and our back library. In addition, we can also move content into new territories and languages. A big focus is also on selling our brands into clients and advertisers who want to reach our communities through innovate campaigns. We’re currently working with Pepsi Max on Twisted, for example. It’s a really exciting longer-term campaign partnership.

As for the newer elements of the business, we work with creators to drive revenue for them from platforms they may be less familiar with. We also secure them brand deals and partnership opportunities. As for The Wild, ultimately, we are selling social agency services to clients. We offer them an end-to-end social offering. From strategy and data to production, creative, influencer, distribution & media.

Some of your digital first peers see TV as relevant to their businesses. Do you?

MC: TV has no pedestal in the Jungle business. We can all see and recognise the shift to social platforms for entertainment and lifestyle content consumption from younger audiences . Our aim is to position our business not in what was, but what’s next. Social is truly the epicentre of this. However, that’s not to dismiss how these two worlds can partner – and play hand-in-hand strategically.

How would you distinguish what you do from other leading social publishers?

MC: Jungle has similarities and differences. I think Jungle holds a unique position in our business diversification. Our Owned Brand – Creator – Client divisions – both how these stand-alone and interlink. This is further differentiated by our varied portfolio of owned brands and our mastery of original format-led video content on social. We see ourselves as the ‘chief innovators’ and ‘chief disruptors.’ We are constantly pushing the envelope here.

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