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Why influencers are being unfairly ‘singled out’ by ad watchdogs (and why Snooki thinks some brands are ‘idiots’)


By Natalie Mortimer, N/A

September 29, 2016 | 5 min read

As the proliferation of influencer marketing continues to explode, advertising watchdogs are scrambling to ensure rules around disclosure protect fans following those influencers, but are they being singled out unfairly compared to other marketing channels?



According to Karen Robinovitz chief creative officer, Digital Brand Architects, an agency that represents influencers, the answer is yes. Speaking to The Drum on a panel at Advertising Week New York, Robinovitz said that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is targeting influencer marketing but neglecting to govern other practices that are being used in more traditional campaigns such as print.

“Where I take issue is that there is one group of people being singled out and it is obviously coming from this digital space and nobody from the FTC is [looking at] fashion magazines, where you have a high fashion editorial with Celine and Chanel but then there is a mass shoe [brand] being thrown in that would have never been thrown in, but eight pages before is their print ad.

“Then that same brand is showing up on social channels because that is part of the buy. Nobody is calling that out or a lot of the traditional world and there is a big disconnect, that for me is the larger issue.”

To solve this Robinovitz said that all platforms should be treated equally and the same rules need to apply across the board. “If we are going to call out one community you have to call out all of the communities,” she added.

It's a grey area that has seen a number of brands fall afoul of the rules. In July this year, the FTC cracked down on Warner Bros. Home Entertainment after it was found to have deceived consumers during a marketing campaign for the video game Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, by failing to adequately disclose that it paid influencers, including the wildly popular 'PewDiePie,' thousands of dollars to post positive gameplay videos on YouTube and social media.

When it comes to brands working with influencers, one of the challenges is marketers not properly understanding the reach versus engagement piece, and in some cases are approaching influencers with millions of followers but not seeing any conversion in to sales according to Pete Stein general manager, Fullscreen Brandworks.

“One of the biggest challenges is getting the right connection between brand and influencer, it has to be authentic and that is the single most important thing, but there is also a decision piece to be made by the brands, are we looking for reach or are well looking for engagement?”

Robinovitz agreed and said having a clear objective is key. “If your objective is actually driving sales then sometimes it’s not about someone with 10m followers or 500,000 followers. It could be somebody with 80,000 followers who has a 20 per cent conversion rate to sales and that person will always drive more sales than somebody much bigger.”

Having an authentic connection with brands is something that MTV’s Jersey Shore star Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi ensures happens when she posts sponsored content on Instagram or Twitter, and she revealed someone of the challenges when it comes to choosing which brands to work with.

“Tonnes of brands want to work for you. When I was on Jersey Shore they wanted me to tweet about herpes, if I had herpes sure, but I’ve never had herpes, it doesn’t work. I’ve had condoms, cigarettes [brands], all of the trashy things you can think of have been approached to me…Some brands are idiots.

“I'm all for making money, I have to feed my babies, but I am not going to oversaturate my brand that way because my brand right now is about being a mom. I grew up in Jersey Shore as a party girl so I’m in a transition in to the mom space so when I do tweet about products, I want it to be meaningful to who I am as a person. So anything to do with fitness, being a mommy, being a woman still, so being sexy and cute but having that responsibility. We get approached all the time and I say no to a lot of things because it just doesn’t fit the person that I am.”

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