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"Engagement is Bullshit": has entertainment marketing found new superstars to engage Millennials?

Connor Franta

LA is the most famous place in the world for homing the world's A-listers, but in the land of the rich and famous, is the novelty of using traditional superstars to engage Millennials and Generation Z starting to lose its appeal?

At a recent 'Entertainment Marketing' breakfast in Los Angeles, run by Think LA, the dedicated organisation supporting the advertising and marketing industry in the city, the general consensus of the panel was that social media influencers are now starting to pick up the pace in becoming marketers’ choice for brand advocacy.

The key takeaway was centred around the reality that YouTubers have the authenticity and personal relationship with their fans, something a Hollywood actor can't offer brands. And the interesting point was made by Abbey Thomas, SVP, Buyer Platforms, Auto and Entertainment at Tremor Video who said that "Millennials can now mention more social influencers than stars on the Hollywood walk of fame"

Talking at the session was a self-made Youtube star from Minnesota, Connor Franta. At the age of 24 years old he is already the founder of a record label, a clothes-line and modestly boasts over 5 million YouTube subscribers - "I know my audience better than anyone else and brands have to trust me,” he explains. "My favourite thing is when I can work with a brand I authenticity like, it’s a brand working with a brand." And that sentiment took prominence throughout the morning - if social influencers don't like or respect a brand then there is no hope of a successful marriage between the two.

The word 'authenticity' cropped up time and time again as every speaker hammered home the point that if brands want to gain the respect from their target audience, they need to allow YouTube creators to have a heavy hand in co-creating the content in order for it to work and come across as ‘authentic’

Grace Helbig, creator and host of the YouTube channel ‘it'sGrace’ explained that for her she has "Real bonds with real people" and the thought of "Having to lie to your stranger internet friends, sucks." The bottom line is that if the content is not genuine then the audience will see right through it.

But it's not all about achieving the big engagement numbers advised Zach Gallagher, EVP, director of digital strategy of Deutsch LA "I think engagement is bullshit. Counting the number of likes it gets doesn't really do it for me".

That statement received a chuckle and a sea of nodding heads from the audience which agreed that a campaign had have meaning – and with the right people in mind.

Another piece of advice to marketers came from Jeetendr Sehdev, Celebrity Branding Authority and Professor of Marketing at the University of Southern California; "Brands need to be brave and tap into what people really are thinking deep down. Tap into them and induce behavioural change."

He added "To be authentic with your audience you have to be authentic with yourself". And he urged that if they did not edit themselves they were more likely to connect with their target market. In his opinion he felt it was important for brands not to shy away from flaws in their products, in actual fact by opening up and being over-exposed, that would influence behaviour. But he did give a stark warning by saying that “The function of marketers today will fundamentally change in five years.”

The event was held in the Ritz Carlton in LA and was attended by 500 media and advertising professionals.

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