Influencers are not billboards, so stop treating them like media space

By Tom Noble-Sabokbar, Head of client services

Hey Honey


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June 19, 2020 | 7 min read

The combination of negative and positive messaging around influencers at the moment has people confused as to whether they should be working with influencers or not. We’ve seen reports that #ad content by influencers dropped by 35%, conflicting with thought pieces on how there is no better time to work with them.


Hey Honey have advice for marketers questioning whether to continue working with influencers.

Regardless, although marketing budgets are being cut across the board, influencers, creators and ambassadors still play a very valid role. But just like any other marketing or creative channel, need to have their own purpose in your marketing matrix.

I’m not here to confuse you more but as a social creative agency, we know that good creative can organically transcend a campaign. So here are some tips on how to get the best out of your influencer squad as possible, from a creative standpoint.

Firstly, it must be highlighted that influencers, ambassadors, talent, celebrities and creators are all culture creators in their own right. They set trends, they influence others within the dominant cultural pillars of 2020, and they do what they do because they like to create.

It’s true, they own a bit of space on the internet with a loyal following, that you (as a brand) want to use to spread your message. However, we recommend not treating that space like media that you can buy, but to treat influencers like real people to get the best out of them, creatively.

Collaborate, don’t dictate

Marketeers that are not willing to relinquish complete creative control to the influencer they want to work with, perhaps, should be exploring other options. If you want a billboard, get a billboard.

The value exchange you get if you include an influencer right from the beginning of the creative process is second-to-none. If hosting an event or running a campaign that has influencers at the centre of it, then don’t include them as a promotional tool. They are creative creatures at heart and they want to be involved. On the plus side, the more responsibility they feel they have, the better the output will be for both.

You need to fit into their world, not them into yours

It goes without saying, there needs to be a mutually beneficial fit for both brand and influencer when pitching to them.

Ensure your product or message hits some of the following criteria:

  1. What you’re pitching will be exciting to the influencer.
  2. The influencers will benefit from your product/message in some way shape or form.
  3. Your brand is not out of whack with the influencer’s or their audience’s values.
  4. They have shown or indicated a genuine interest in your product or message.

Stop forcing influencers and celebrities to be mates with each other

It’s common knowledge that ‘internet personalities’ all know each other. The perfect portrayal of that was when YouTubers, Zak and Jay, recently attempted to test the six degrees of separation theory.

They started a Zoom call with a few of their internet personality friends to challenge everyone to get the biggest names and celebrities on it that they possibly could. Over the course of a few hours some of the biggest UK YouTube names all appeared one-by-one. Eventually, they managed to get Dame Judi Dench on there, which is an epic achievement but came about simply because her grandson is also an ‘internet personality’. So, we get it, influencers and creators do run in very small and confined circles and it’s likely that they know each other if involved in the same project, but not always.

I can’t explain how many times I have been on a shoot or at an event that brands had invited influencers to and tried to force them to ‘act like best friends“ when they hadn’t even met each other before. Essentially, you will find more success by ensuring that all collaborative partners have a genuine interest in the project but if they need to pretend to be mates, it helps if they actually are.

A great example of this was JBL’s recent Live Instagram series with UK Grime artist, Yinka Bokinni. Yinka hosted Live at-home hangouts on JBL UK’s Instagram channel with some mates of hers from the scene including Steel Banglez. These live sessions were natural and untainted by the sheer awkwardness of trying to force a relaxed conversation with hundreds of people watching you, live.

Speak their language

Get personal with them, using language. Talent handlers have a big responsibility to ensure influencers are giving it all on set, so they must make the effort to know something about them that allows you to connect with them on a personal level. I once bonded with German football sensation Jerome Boateng over the size of his huge, internet-meme-worthy dog on a shoot.

I asked Amelia Dimoldenberg, content creator and founder of Chicken Shop Date, what she had to say about brands approaching influencers and content creators and she had this to say: “Only approach a content creator if you know first what you want to get out of the campaign and are certain that the creator represents and understands your brand values.

“It can be off putting being approached by brands that don’t actually know what their campaign is about. As a content creator who likes to have a large amount of creative input on all projects, it’s so much easier to shape a brief to your tone of voice when a brand is clear on what they want to achieve.“

Ultimately, creative people like to be treated as just that, creative people. It’s important to value their ideas and include them in the concept stage to ensure you get the best out of them from a creative standpoint.

Tom Noble-Sabokbar, first head of client services at Hey Honey.


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