Brands should focus on developing multi-year relationships with creators, instead of one-off deals, was an idea backed by YouTube Global Creator Innovation Manager, Linda Petta, and Essence Global SVP, Content and Innovation Jeremy Sigel, during the panel “What’s Next in Influencer Marketing” at the IAB Influencer Marketing Day at Viacom in New York City.
The discussion, which I moderated, focused on social-to-linear-TV creativity, influencer “incrementality,” long-term relationships, and a shift to a complete strategy of brands embracing influencers as co-creators and utilizing optimized paid media to distribute the message to a targeted and scalable audience.
“Two things pop to mind; authenticity and long-term,” said Pinterest Head of Global Marketing Communications, Eric Edge, who just returned from judging the Cannes Lions awards. He cited Wieden & Kennedy’s “Nothing beats a Londoner” campaign for Nike, which won the Grand Prix at Cannes Lions for the inaugural Social & Influencer category, as an example of a campaign which cast regular young people who told their stories about sports and London and became influencers in the process. “It was so authentic, it resonated and hit home. It worked.”
Edge also explained the industry has been shifting from a top-down strategy, where brands looked for the most prominent celebrity to endorse their products to an untargeted audience, to a bottom-up mentality where they embrace influencers as co-creators developing long-term relationships that lead to ongoing trust and authenticity.
When asked, “Does that mean that the industry is finally past the ‘post a selfie with the product in the background and hope it goes viral’ phase?” Edge responded, “Yes, I think we’re getting past that.” Edge added that before when influencer marketing was new ground for brands, they didn’t see influencers as creators but rather as distribution channels that you could throw your product to in the hopes that something sticks.
“Now, there’s a core strategy, and there’s the importance of creators, which are different from influencers,” Edge explained. He said that marketers now know the ecosystem and what the right strategy is for achieving the brand objectives. “We are more sophisticated as an industry.”
Petta agreed with Edge in that “we’re growing as an industry.” She explained that “there’s still a level of education in the conversation, but now the conversation is elevated,” adding that thinking about specific social platforms and how the message comes across on each of them was not in the agenda that long ago.
Essence Global SVP, Content and Innovation Jeremy Sigel introduced the concept of influencer “incrementality.” “This is all media; this is all marketing,” he said. “To the consumers, they don’t care if they’re watching a linear TV commercial or an influencer campaign. It’s how the brands are being represented to them that counts.”
Sigel’s influencer vision is the result of an “increased unification” that he says empowers brands to tell their stories “holistically” to an audience across every platform. “The idea essentially is if you’re a consumer and you’ve been exposed to other media that marketers are running via television or social, and then you are exposed to an influence marketing campaign,” he added. “What is the incrementality of that influencer effort? What’s the impact of the influencer over traditional media that the consumer has been exposed to?” Sigel explained that all the forms of advertising are in independent silos that are not always in alignment but as the industry gets savvier through experience and then there is more integration that is when “we will know the real contribution that influencer marketing is making.”
The discussion moved to TV, where I asked, “Do you see an influencer campaign that could be the basis for a linear TV ad, as opposed to the other way around?” “Absolutely,” responded Edge. “TV is not going anywhere; it just continues to evolve.” He explained that the evolution of TV into amazing video content from platforms is becoming part of the TV ecosystem. “There’s a ton of platforms out there that are creating just for video and if you think of TV as an evolution of viewing, an evolution of sound and motion, you’ll understand how influencers can easily create a channel that was off-limits to them for many years because of the complexity and the budgets.”
For Petta, “all the lines all blurring” as you no longer refer to someone as just a “YouTube” or “Instagram star.” “I mean, movie stars are coming to YouTube and Instagram because, at the end of the day, it’s where you can find the audience that you want.” She compared the image of a 1950s family seated around a TV set to a family of today, where the TV set sits in the background outshined by iPads and other devices. “There’s this fluidity with these influencers; they’re playing in all these spaces.”
She believes agencies are helpful partners when it comes to create and develop strategies to leverage the right platforms and formats. “It’s complicated, but it all comes down to the strategy and understanding who is the person on the other side of the screen and what do I want,” Petta explained. “Get deep into your audience; there are more specific niches in categories where you may find your audience that is not as general as “fashion and beauty.”
The IAB Influencer Marketing day was presented by IAB’s Social Media/Native Content Committee in partnership with, Collective Bias, Rakuten Marketing, Undertone and WHOSAY at Viacom offices in New York City. Over 165 brands and agencies were in attendance. IAB expects to do more work in the influencer space and we hope you’ll join us. For more information, contact [email protected].
IAB empowers the media and marketing industries to thrive in the digital economy. Its membership is comprised of more than 650 leading media and technology companies that are responsible for selling, delivering, and optimizing digital advertising or marketing campaigns. The trade group fields critical research on interactive advertising, while also educating brands, agencies, and the broader business community on the importance of digital marketing. In affiliation with the IAB Tech Lab, it develops technical standards and best practices. IAB and the IAB Education Foundation are committed to professional development and elevating the knowledge, skills, expertise, and diversity of the workforce across the industry. Through the work of its public policy office in Washington, D.C., IAB advocates for its members and promotes the value of the interactive advertising industry to legislators and policymakers. There are 43 IABs licensed to operate in nations around the world and one regional IAB, in Europe. Founded in 1996, the IAB is headquartered in New York City and has a San Francisco office. For more information, contact [email protected].