Havas is doubling down on influencer marketing, building out its Socialyse Influence proposition with several fresh hires in order to bring "scale and efficiency" to an industry it believes to be lacking in both.
The move comes just weeks after Dentsu Aegis invested an unknown sum in Gleam Futures, with Havas saying that its investment comes on the back of a 300% increase in billings for Socialyse throughout 2017 when compared to 2016.
The group has restructured its existing influencer division to form a newly-created team which will be led by Jenna Walker, current content and creative director of Socialyse, with help from Jess Rowntree as director- who has worked for Havas since 2014. Nik Speller is joining from Three Letters, the influencer marketing agency he co-founded which counts Converse and Penny Skateboards among its clients. Zoe Crook, meanwhile arrives from The War Agency to bulk up the six-strong team.
Speaking to The Drum, Rowntree said one of the aims following the hiring spree will be to digitise and scale influencer campaigns in order to equip clients with better results and measurement tools.
“Efficiency is one of the things [the industry] really lacks, so much of this is done on spreadsheets and databases. What we’re trying to do is industrialise things and make it more efficient by its very nature, and we’re bringing in the talent to do that,” she asserted.
The Socialyse Influence team will work across all Havas clients - which so far include O2, among others - and for Rowntree measurement and transparency are high on her agenda.
Influencer marketing is notoriously tricky to track, and there is no industry standard - some brands focus on engagement and then layer on qualitative metrics, others are driven by scale and sales. As such, Havas is developing an “end-to-end” propriety tool which will incorporate brand safety checkers and real-time analytics among other functions.
Rowntree believes current industry brand safety measures are "not fit for purpose" and measurement is weak and unsophisticated in comparrison to other mediums.
Havaswill seek to set the bar for other players in space: "That is the holy grail. We’ve put together this dedicated team to attack that problem," she said.
Built in measurement tools will be part and parcel of campaign delivery for clients, and according to Rowntree when it comes to ROI the division will be using measurements like share of voice, brand uplift and how campaigns affect overall brand perception and sales.
“What we’re increasingly finding is that clients end up almost double counting - everybody puts a little bit of mark-up on everything and then they do end up paying over the odds for the influencers,” said Rowntree.
Havas' backing of its own influencer arm won't stop it working with influencer agencies and networks when necessary said Rowntree, though. "What we’re saying is we want to choose the influencers our brands work with - we want to put them through our brand safety checks, we want to put them through our measurement criteria and the ROI that we have created with our client."
With the fallout from YouTube's brand safety scandal and Facebook's over-inflated metrics still bubbling away in the background, both agencies and brands know they can’t afford to be complacent on these points. The financial incentive is a further driving force, with research from influencer startup Susurrus suggesting that influencer marketing is forecast to be worth more than $24bn globally by 2019, $8bn of which will come from within the EMEA region.
How content is flagged as paid-for across various platforms is an ongoing challenge. Instagram recently unveiled a tool to allow influencers to clearly signpost paid for content. In the UK the Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP) has been pushing home the importance of its guidelines and is seeking greater penalties for flouting the rules but marketers continue to describe policing the space as being akin to a game of whack-a-mole.
Rowntree is clear that Havas would support an industry standard should it be enforced, but the nuances of the various platforms used by influencer present various obstacles for governing bodies meaning this is unlikely to happen anytime soon, she said.
An open door
Agencies have been slow on the uptake when it comes to bolstering their influencer arms, but Dentsu Aegis' recent backing of Gleam – the network which represents influencer royalty like Zoella, Pixiwoo and Jim Champan – is a sign that things are changing.
"It’s a door that is already open, clients are already very receptive to these conversations, they’re much more receptive to what value it can bring and add. They’re not seeing it as an 'either or' as of yet, it’s still an 'as well'," she said. "I can't speak on whether budgets are being pulled from elsewhere but it’s certainly got the floor."
Gleam Futures will work with The Story Lab, Dentsu Aegis Network’s entertainment content arm. When pressed on whether Vivendi's recent snapping up of a majority stake in Havas, could potentially grant Socialyse access to artists and influencers from Vivendi-owned Universal Music Group, Rowntree was coy - noting there was no roadmap for this as of yet.