Woman Bathing In Milk Underscores Appeal of ‘TikTok Houses’

TikTok stars are moving into all-expenses-paid luxury mansions in the UK after US marketing agencies pioneered the lucrative trend

| Updated on: Aug 20 2022, 23:52 IST
The TikTok logo is pictured outside the company's U.S. head office in Culver City, California, U.S.,  September 15, 2020.   REUTERS/Mike Blake/Files
The TikTok logo is pictured outside the company's U.S. head office in Culver City, California, U.S., September 15, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake/Files (REUTERS)
The TikTok logo is pictured outside the company's U.S. head office in Culver City, California, U.S.,  September 15, 2020.   REUTERS/Mike Blake/Files
The TikTok logo is pictured outside the company's U.S. head office in Culver City, California, U.S., September 15, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake/Files (REUTERS)

The 22-year-old woman partially submerged in a bath of milk and flower petals slowly removes the mask obscuring her face. In doing so, Eloise Fouladgar revealed she was a resident of Britain's latest so-called TikTok house to 53 million viewers.

It was a typically lavish “reveal” clip—a common promotional video used by teenage and twenty-something creators to announce they've moved into luxury multi-million-dollar mansions to make content for social media platforms, and promote brands for the marketing agencies that are picking up the bills.

It's an all-expenses paid arrangement that sees savvy agencies lease aspirational homes on behalf of young creators with existing fan bases. The luxury pads are filled with branded goods, food and drink, cameras and, on request, helicopters, snakes, or whatever else might lead a doomscroller to pause for 15 seconds.

Pioneered in the U.S., British real estate is being snapped up by marketing agencies who want to replicate the successes of their American peers as TikTok rises to prominence to become the social network of choice for fans of short-form videos of dance routines, goofy comedy and pranks.

But it does so against the backdrop of the Trump administration's proposed ban on the grounds that the app's Chinese ownership makes it a national security threat. A federal judge in Pennsylvania issued a temporary injunction last week blocking the ban, but supporting creators in other markets will remain important no matter the ultimate outcome. The U.K. is a particularly vital market as any block or sale of the company's assets to the U.S. won't include British users.

The creator mansion trend started on U.K. soil with agency Fanbyte's central London Bytehouse in March, and was followed by Yoke Network's Essex county Wave House in September, and WeRmedia's multi-million-dollar west London Icon House in October. It isn't all spa days and fun, however.

“It may look like they are just there enjoying a lavish lifestyle, but the reality couldn't be further from the truth,” said Kelly Levi, who along with Elad Panker co-founded WeRmedia in October 2019. “Working and living under the same roof 24/7 can be challenging.”

L.A.'s original Hype House is often used as a blueprint, having played home to TikTok stars like Charli D'Amelio and Addison Rae. Both young women became major celebrities, taking the top two spots in a Forbes assessment of TikTok's highest earners last year. Rae topped the list with an estimated $5 million.

“If each of our creators can aim to do anywhere near that over the next 12 months, we will all be very happy,” said Levi.

The influencer advertising market may be worth as much as $10 billion this year, according to marketing firm Mediakix. Data compiled by Influencer Marketing Hub suggested a figure of $9.7 billion. And Bytedance Ltd.'s TikTok, while still catching up to Instagram, generated more than $3 billion of net profit on $17 billion in revenue last year. 

Influencers with large fan bases tend to make their money from brands who pay them to create posts about their products. Creator houses are an evolution of this model, with agencies underwriting living costs and attracting sponsors.

In return, their affiliated influencers continually churn out viral videos that can incorporate client products and expose them to millions of potential consumers. As book deals or offers of TV jobs roll in, those agencies are on hand to take a cut of the takings, too.

Timothy Armoo, the 25-year-old chief executive officer of Fanbytes, the agency behind Bytehouse, added that his U.K. “Bytesquad” influencers can 'comfortably make high five-figure or six-figure” sums on brand deals and endorsements.

The group was among the first to move into a TikTok house in the U.K. and comprises six creators aged between 17 and 21 years. Videos from the central London residence have racked up more than 50 million likes. The creators have also amassed large individual followings—Sebby Jon and KT Franklin securing 2.8 million and 2.3 million followers respectively.

Since launching in March, the group has worked with companies such as Samsung Electronics Co. and Huawei Technologies Co., as well as the U.K. government on its public health campaign during the pandemic, Armoo said. A cut from such deals goes to Fanbytes, although the CEO wouldn't say what the split was between creator and agency.

The Wave House opened next. The sprawling five million pound ($6.5 million) mansion is now home to the milk-bathing Fouladgar, as well as five other creators aged 20 to 22 years. The agency behind them, Yoke Network, was founded by 26-year-old CEO Jide Maduako, who said he wants to build his brand into “the Disney of TikTok,” referring to Disney Channel celebrities of the early noughties such as Miley Cyrus.

The University of Lancaster business graduate founded Yoke in 2018 with school friend Mustafa Mohamed, and said he took inspiration from his time as an ex-professional soccer for Leicester City as a teenager. “All you had to do was focus on football and be the best that you could be,” Maduako said.

Whether bathing in milk under a bejeweled mask was also drawn from his sports background was left unmentioned. 

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First Published Date: 03 Nov, 07:00 IST