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Digital Marketing

The influencer marketing tactic continues, but with tighter controls

Some businesses will continue to invest (heavily) in the influencer marketing tactic well into 2019, because they still see the value in it. And, granted, we also believe that there is a place for it in the marketing mix when it comes to promotional strategies.

It is, after all, just an updated label for ‘celebrity product endorsement’; a tactic which dates back to the 18th century. Did you know that, during the 1760s, pottery and chinaware producer ‘Josiah Wedgwood and Sons’ used royal endorsements as a marketing device to promote their products to the general public?

During 2018 however, we registered a larger ‘volume’ of scepticism regarding influencer marketing - not least from Social Chain, who launched a big campaign focusing on the issue of ‘influencer fraud’.

We witnessed a real, high profile backlash against specific campaigns (remember that Listerine influencer campaign, where the girl lies on her bed with balloons, cereal, roses and… erm… a big bottle of Listerine?). These very public examples of how influencer marketing can backfire mean that companies may be less likely to trust in this tactic in future; sensing a risk in the possible negative impact and reputational damage that could be done to their brand.

Another big thing to watch next year will be that of social platforms themselves fighting back against fake influencers. Instagram has recently introduced an algorithm which aims to clamp down on the effects caused by automated apps using Instagram API, for example.

We predict that 2019 will be the year that social media platforms get serious about ‘weeding out’ the kind of marketing campaigns that employ the use of bought / fake followers, bogus accounts and bots. It’ll also see a growing pressure (and need) for clearer ‘disclosure’ of sponsored content (i.e. any social media posts which are actually paid-for product placement, posted by a hired ‘influencer’). And there are already encouraging signs. On January 14th this year we saw the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) release a new downloadable guidance paper: ‘An Influencer’s Guide to making clear that ads are ads’. The guide, which is the first of its kind from the ASA, sets out a number of recommendations and rules relating to this audience. We’ll be watching closely over the course of 2019 to establish whether greater focus from the ad watchdog on this subject has an impact.

In fact, over in the US, the Federal Trade Commission has proactively sought to bring Instagram influencers into line by issuing letters which conveyed their dissatisfaction at the way that users had failed to clearly signal to others that some (or all) of their content was pushing a product through the use of hashtags such as #ad, #sp or #sponsored.