If you follow comedy or pop-culture accounts on Instagram, chances are you've come across one of FuckJerry's memes or funny jokes while scrolling through your feed.
Since launching a Tumblr account in 2011 to aggregate his collection of pictures he found on the internet, Elliot Tebele has turned the popular FuckJerry account into a full-blown franchise, with 40 million followers across multiple social channels, a clothing line, a card game, a late-night TV show pilot with MTV and a small social media shop called Jerry Media.
In addition to the FuckJerry Instagram account, which has 10.5 million followers, Tebele and his team also own a handful of other accounts including @pizza, @sneakers, @beigecardigan and @kanyedoingthings.
"Instagram came out, and early on, I was doing the same model that I was with Tumblr—just posting curated images," Tebele said. "I would post some funny stuff here and there, and engagement went higher so [it] slowly shifted into pure comedy. From then, it was just all organic growth."
Now, Trebele and his team are working to try and score more brand deals to create sponsored posts for marketers as it has for Burger King, Paramount Pictures, Tinder and Warner Bros. But despite its massive reach, getting brands on board with a controversial name like FuckJerry can be a tough sell.
"You can't ignore that there are some clients that are so brand-sensitive that they're not able to get approval from legal to work with a company that has a swear word in its name," said Ben Kaplan, director of business development for FuckJerry. "That said, we're finding more and more folks are willing to be a little bit more experimental."
FuckJerry is armed with data for its pitch to advertisers. Kaplan said that on average, posts receive 6 to 7 million impressions at a cost per 1,000 impressions, or CPM, of $5. That means marketers can expect to pay at least $30,000 for a piece of sponsored content. Rates for other Instagram stars fluctuate significantly. Style blogger Danielle Bernstein told Harper's Bazaar last year that she makes $5,000 to $15,000 from sponsored Instagram posts. And in May, Digiday reported that deals with big YouTube personalities like Casey Neistat can cost $300,000 to $500,000.
According to FuckJerry, the average post generates 30,000 comments, and when Instagram's algorithm kicked in earlier this year—it favors posts with high engagement—the team claims its engagement stats went up 20 percent to 25 percent per post.
Lately, the team has seen particular success on Facebook, which has 2.1 million followers and recently reached 600 million people in 28 days.
On any given day, FuckJerry posts 10 to 20 pieces of content on Facebook and a few posts for each Instagram account. The team creates 20 pieces of branded content per month, equivalent to less than 5 percent of the total content.
"Due to the nature of sharing on Facebook and the frequency of which it is more acceptable to post, you're able to reach hundreds of millions of people," Kaplan said. "Instagram is more about quality than quantity, so we're posting two to four times a day per account."
FuckJerry also runs a 15-person social media agency called Jerry Media that works with brands including DirecTV and Jack in the Box to manage and grow social media accounts for brands in addition to running influencer programs.
For Burger King, FuckJerry posted a picture of the chain's Halloween stunt to dress up as a McDonald's ghost. Through Instagram Insights, the team saw that the post generated 7.5 million impressions and more than 340,000 engagements, and reached 5.5 million users.
For Paramount Pictures' new film Office Christmas Party, FuckJerry worked with MEC to create a few sponsored posts in the style of the account's popular memes.
FuckJerry has also made use of Instagram's 4-month-old Instagram Stories feature for branded content. The team created a series of videos for Walgreens using the feature.
Some brands might find the content inappropriate, but that's the point, argued Tebele. "We won't do anything that's not funny," he said. "If the brand isn't open to getting creative through our voice, then we usually turn that down."
When asked about reports from comedians who are mad that FuckJerry steals and reposts jokes, Tebele said his team is working on creating more original content. "At first, I would say it was 80 percent curated and 20 percent original. Now I would say it's 60-40," he said.
Even as more brands invest in influencer marketing, the name FuckJerry is still a difficult one for brands to get around, said Amy Tunick, president of Grey Activation and PR.
Last year, Grey hosted an event with FuckJerry and talked to a couple of its clients about working with him on branded content deals, particularly for long-term partnerships.
"We did have some conversations with a couple of our clients about him specifically. A lot of people were like, 'Eh, no.' It didn't matter about the power of his audience," Tunick said. "Brands have to really be comfortable. Maybe smaller or edgier brands are willing to go there, but I do think it's a handicap at least for that kind of specific, flagship brand."