Refining Influencer Marketing

July 26, 2018

By Nick Lynch


For influencer marketing, the first half of 2018 ended with a bang during the Cannes Lions festival. Unilever CMO Keith Weed announced that the advertiser will not work with influencers who buy followers, and its brands will actively look to eradicate from its spend any influencers with fake followers, bots, or any other fraudulent practices. Though marketers had been voicing frustration with the emerging advertising medium, Unilever is the largest to take this kind of bold action.

With this proclamation by Weed, vendors, agencies, and marketers have now significantly shifted their focus to understanding how best to approach the issue of influencer fraud and what solutions they can implement to protect their influencer advertising investments. But solutions for this growing problem have, for the most part, been evasive. In a sea of platforms and tool providers, marketers struggle to find transparency and trust. Because influencer marketing is essentially built on top of two platforms, Google and Facebook (Instagram), these great keepers of the walled gardens control what data is available to third parties and how that data is accessed. Without cooperation and transparency from these social networks, providers of influencer marketing solutions will be left to create their own from various sources of data, as many of them already have. But with different "black-box" methodologies, metrics, and scores, these solutions seem more complex and convoluted than trustworthy. So how do marketers truly get the transparency and standards they, and the industry, desperately need and deserve?

First, advertisers and advertiser trade groups need to band together to create a set of standards for the industry on measurement, metrics, and methodology. Taking a page from the U.K.-based ISBA, these standards can serve as a framework for how brands, influencers, and solution providers can work together, covering potential issues like campaign measurement, content usage rights, fraudulent/misrepresenting reach, contract termination, and what happens if an influencer insults a partner brand's product.

Second, solutions providers need to deliver on the promise of transparency and accountability. This may require providers to diversify their product offerings and augment their business models. They will need to increase the value to a creator and incentivize transparent behavior as well as create tools to better monitor and track performance.

Lastly, Google and Facebook will need to open up and allow advertisers to better understand audience and performance, whether through enhancements of their own influencer marketing products, the platforms' reporting API's, or both. As more marketers begin to take action, the need for these platforms to provide access will grow.

Innovation in the space will persist, but in order for marketers to have confidence and for investments in the medium to continue, standards must be set and transparency must be the highest priority. Without these two pillars of trust, the ecosystem could see stagnation or potentially decline. However, I am confident that the stakeholders of influencer marketing will work together to take advantage of the tremendous opportunity of servicing the generation shift in content consumption and advertising.


Nick Lynch is the SVP of media innovation at Thoughtful Media Group, Inc.


The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

You must be logged in to submit a comment.