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Meet The 22-Year-Old Making £2,000 Per Second On Vine

A year ago Ben Phillips was working in his mum's shoe shop and making Vines for fun. Now he tells BuzzFeed News that major brands are paying him £12,000 to make them and he has a team of 12 people.

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This is Ben Phillips – he makes Vines for a living and has more than 1.3 million followers on the six-second-video platform.

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The Cardiff-born social media star can make £12,000 for a sponsored Vine and has a team of 12 people working on the marketing and commercial sides of his brand. He's 22 years old.

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This time last year, Phillips was working in his mum's shoe shop and rising to stardom through the extremely cute Vines he made with "Dr" Harley, the 3-year-old son of his then girlfriend.

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But in the summer of 2014 he split up with Harley's mum, Abi, after two and a half years together, ending the Ben and Harley Vine partnership.

The split happened not long after the duo reached a million Vine followers and had been featured on BuzzFeed and British TV news, and came just as they were being courted by brands to do sponsored Vines after being signed up by New York-based social media agency GrapeStory, co-founded by leading Vine star Jerome Jarre.

"When I left Harley it was the lowest [point] of my life," Phillips tells BuzzFeed News. "I didn't know what to do, because I'd broken up with my girlfriend and it was something that I couldn't control, it was completely her decision."

The last Vine they made together was their first paid-for advert, for Ford Europe, which involved Phillips flying to Germany.

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"Harley wasn't allowed to come to Germany – she [Abi] wouldn't let him – so I went over to Germany and got all the shots I needed of the car, came back, and then finished off the shots of Harley," says Phillips. "It was two Vines in two different countries.

"Sometimes six seconds can actually be a lot of work. Sometimes it involves flying to different countries."

When it came to the money, Phillips was expecting a fee of about £200. "I thought that would be amazing, that's like four tanks of petrol. I had a Ford Fiesta and I thought that would be awesome.

"I was more excited about going to Germany with Ford, staying in a hotel with inclusive drinks, I was loving it. So the last thing on my mind was money. But when they offered it me it was the equivalent to £2,000 per second. I was like, 'Wow.' It made me realise that I could make Vine, or being a social influencer, a full-time job."

But as for Harley, that was the last time Phillips saw him: "The day I was finishing off the advert, I knew in my head it was the last time I'd see him for, possibly, until he's 18. That's if I ever see him again."

Phillips took a break from Vine but then posted this from a London McDonald's, featuring fellow Viners Arron Crascall and Joe Charman. It went on to clock up nearly 9 million loops.

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The reaction to that Vine prompted Phillips to change the name of the account from Ben and Harley to Ben Phillips Official, and, in the autumn of 2014, to stop working in his mum's shoe shop.

And now he's branching out: Phillips is building his Facebook page, which he only started actively promoting in January and has now passed 400,000 likes.

His association with The Lad Bible, the youth-focused viral publishing phenomenon, has helped: Several compilations of Phillips' Vines have appeared on the The Lad Bible's Facebook page, which has more than 9 million likes. Phillips runs The Lad Bible's Vine account.

And then came adverts for BT, Peugot, Nokia, and Comedy Central – he's even turned down clients that didn't fit with his brand.

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Phillips doesn't like talking about money that much and is reluctant to dwell on the numbers. He emphasises that he still makes Vines "to make people smile" and he says he thinks his fans understand that he does the adverts "to pay our way".

But he says that a Telegraph report in September, which said he earned £12,000 for one Vine, was accurate and that subsequent ad deals have been around that number.

How does a bloke with a phone get major brands to pay for a Vine? Because the clients' children are fans.

"Normally these companies approach me because the marketing directors' kids follow me and they're hearing my name 24/7, and they get in touch to say, 'Let's have some fun,'" he says.

Most creative advertising deals involve many torturous conversations between clients and creative types. Not so in the world of Vine:

"They say, 'Listen Ben, can you put this across in your natural way?'" he says. "They don't even give me a storyline. They just say, 'Please, just have fun with it, have fun with the product.'

"If you look at all our adverts they never mention prices or anything like that, it's all about saying, 'This is fun, we're a fun company.' When they use me specifically, it's to show the company has a personality – they're not just soulless money-grabbers."

Phillips' Vines are often pranks involving unsuspecting people in the street, in supermarkets, or even in their homes.

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Despite the extreme cheekiness of his Vines, Phillips says he's never been beaten up as a result.

"Usually the person laughs," he says, "and to be honest I've only been told 'Please can you not post it on the internet' three times and in front of them I’ve deleted the video."

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He is famous enough to have appeared on phone cases.

Love my new phone case x 😍❤️ @JSMVOfficial @BarsAndMelody @BenPhillipsUK

And to have appeared in a list of the 500 most influential people in Britain.

I made the Debretts 500 most influential list along side @PointlessBlog @ZozeeBo @pewdiepie @coollike HAPPY! @vine 🙈

Phillips' team includes people to grow his social media accounts, organise his public appearances, sort through his correspondence, and film longer "non-selfie" videos.

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He stresses, however, that "everything you see posted on Facebook, Vine, Instagram, Twitter, comes from my fingers".

"A lot of people are not open about these things," he says, "but at the end of the day a single person can't [do everything]."

He says he gets thousands of messages and recently answered more than 12,000 in a day.

So what does the future hold for Phillips? Another UK Vine star, Dapper Laughs, ended up with an ITV show, but that didn't end well. Does he want a TV show?

"No, not really. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have a TV show – honestly, it would be amazing. But I feel like we've completely done something different here, we've gone for social media – who thought you could ever get big on the internet, on mobile phone screens?

"What better job in the world than dishing out happiness in six seconds?"

Patrick Smith is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Patrick Smith at patrick.smith@buzzfeed.com.

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