Trust and authenticity are crucial elements of being an influencer, a belief that the industry agrees with as this form of branded content continues to flourish.
Following the controversy around Zoella’s £50 advent calendar on sale at Boots and around the historic social media messages of YouTuber Jack Maynard, which forced him to leave I’m a Celebrity last week, questions have started to be asked around just how real these influencers really are.
Trust is essential in the world of advertising and these influencers have the trust of millions of viewers, many of whom are still in school, who then buy the items they are shown on the influencer’s videos they watch.
This was the view of a panel organised by the Branded Content Marketing Association (BCMA), which launched Branded Content Day, which will take place for the first time today (29 November).
“When you’re working with an influencer you’re working with their audience, you’re buying an audience, so you should be using them to talk to the audience in the way they communicate to their followers,” explains Adam Barnett, head of commercial production at ITN Productions. “When people are just trying to buy the audience they’re taking the talent and their expertise away from what they do well and trying to put them into an environment where they are not comfortable. You don’t get the best of them and you lose the audience off the back of that.”
He adds: “Influencers can be an integral part of the creation process, if it’s done correctly. A lot of people don’t do it correctly. And don’t necessarily get the engagement off the back of that.”
Meanwhile, on the topic of trust, Paul Tremain of MediaCom offers the belief that things are improving slowly, as broadcasters and other platforms allow brands to become more involved in the creative process:
“It’s incredibly difficult in today’s world to get broadcasters to trust that an ad funded programme can work on their channel… There are some really good examples out there of how this worked, where a brand has understood their role in it.
“I talk a lot to our clients about a marriage where you understand the channel and brand objectives early in the process and by doing this we can pro-actively deliver ideas with producers that appeal to a broadcaster’s audiences.”
Another reason for there being a trust issue around branded content, can be found in how the content is labeled and distributed.
Thea Cole, executive creative director for Latimer argues that brands and publishers can be guilty of ‘hiding’ content, and if the category is to progress, its creators need to have more pride in their output: “If we’re going to do it we need to be bold about it and we’ve got to shout about it. It’s put to the back of the queue in terms of content… There has to be a distinction between commercial and non-commercial, and I get that, but there comes a point when we have to say that great content is just great content, so let’s just show it off.”
James Hayr of Endemol Shine adds that there is still an adjustment process as content creators of all types begin to fully understand all of the different media they are using to reach their target audiences. He argued that the creators need a better understanding of how this content will be consumed to make sure it has the strongest impact: “There’s almost a need now to bring the creative closer to the point of distribution [and] the point of distribution isn’t just the one size... How do you optimise the story so it fits the platform the consumer is using? On Facebook for instance, if you don’t get them in the first few seconds, then it’s just time wasted.
“It’s making sure you optimise, curate and distribute and that’s why it’s actually important to have lots of different specialists around the same table… We’re heading towards a full service world where there’s probably not one business that can do all of it, as a result it’s a much more open minded industry that we work in [now].”
The conversation around trust came as part of The Great Content Revolution panel discussion, held to promote the BVE and BCMA conference for 2018.
More details about Branded Content Day, which aims to celebrate this growing area of the marketing sector and the content created internationally, can be found at the BCMA Website.