Unilad: Boss says the brand is 'doing better than ever'


Unilad logo with photo of dog and two men

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One of the big bosses at Unilad has denied that the company is in trouble.

Managing director John Quinlan says the brand is “doing better than ever” and he’s confident a buyer will be found.

It’s after Bentley Harrington, the firm which owns Unilad, went into administration on Thursday – with debts of £6.5m.

But John says this isn’t going to affect the content you see on your Facebook newsfeed.

“There are zero problems with Unilad, it’s one of the strongest social media companies in the world,” he tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

Unilad started out as a student Facebook page full of banter in 2010 – hosting videos and photos of anything from silly cats to people tripping up.

It’s grown rapidly in the last eight years and now has more than 42 million followers across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

It has hundreds of employees based at its offices in Manchester and London.

So, what’s gone wrong?

“It’s not a case of what’s gone wrong,” says John. “We went into administration yesterday. There’s already been a lot of interest in the company.”

He says its current owner’s financial situation won’t have an impact on its followers because they’re “loyal”.

“However the creditors and the employees are the ones that will be grossly affected by this because if any damage is done it’ll be those guys that lose out.”

Social media expert Matt Navarra says it’s always been tough for Unilad to make money directly from viral video.

“Like many social media producers they don’t have control over their content and how successful it can be made on Facebook,” he explains.

“Facebook is heavily managed by its own magic formula which changes all the time.

“And add to that, there aren’t a huge amount of ways of injecting ads into video.”

While it will always be known for its funny posts which encourage you to tag a friend, a more serious side of Unilad is emerging.

One of the most recent projects featured on its website tackles the subject of suicide.

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unilad

“They’re still very good at picking up on things that are likely to go viral,” says Matt.

“But they’re doing more partnerships with things like the British Army, paid sponsorship posts.

“It’s an interesting change from what they were doing in the past, but it still taps into the original audience.”

Matt believes Unilad will be bought out but there’s a chance it could lose its brand name.

“My understanding is that they will probably be bought by someone that’s very similar to them.

“That will decide whether people lose their jobs, whether they take the brand name or whether it’s swallowed up and digested and then they take the parts from it and move on.”

The plan for the future of the brand now hangs in the balance.

But boss John believes it will “go from strength to strength” and will move towards even more original content.

“We’ll be buying live sports rights. We’ll be doing formatted programming, partnering up with production companies and broadcasters and we’ll be expanding all our channels.

“Because we actually have nine different channels based from travel to food to sport to tech.”

Does he worry where Unilad will be in six months time?

“From a product perspective, absolutely not, no.

“It will continue to be the best channel on Facebook for sure.”

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