Advertising Week Europe briefing: Influencer marketing under pressure to show results

Chatter among advertisers, publishers, agencies and influencers at Advertising Week Europe indicated that influencer marketing is finally growing up and coming closer to being a more typical media buy. It’s a development that’s been talked about for a while, but growing concerns over the effectiveness of a form of marketing blighted by fraud and skepticism are pushing more people to make it happen.

“It’s so much more important not to just look at likes, follower counts or comments now when measuring influencers because those are very broad things that can be faked, said Ben Jeffries, CEO of marketing consultancy Influencer. “Advertisers need to look behind the data of who’s liking and commenting on posts to understand how an influencer has actually performed.”

Rather than focus on fake followers as a proxy for the reach it buys, Unilever wants to pay influencers on the performance they deliver, the advertiser’s senior global brand manager Turker Bilgin said in a session at the event. That means paying closer attention to aspects such as the length of time followers spend on a post and whether they send direct messages to the influencer, all of which requires having a relationship that allows them to access that data from the influencer. Doing so has allowed Unilever to start brokering deals with influencers similar to how it strikes a traditional brand partnership, said Bilgin.

“I consider influencers as brands in their own right,” said Bilgin. “We approach deals with influencers as a collaboration between two brands. More than the size of an influencer’s audience, we’re looking at the fit between their brand and ours when it comes to what they stand for and who they represent.”

News UK’s influencer marketing division, which it launched this week is further proof that influencer marketing is focusing on its media plans. The eight-person marketing agency is using the annual gathering to drum up interest in an offer that’s being pitched as a way advertisers can bridge the gap between word-of-mouth marketing and traditional media.

Influencers are also starting to be more discerning about the advertisers they endorse. Longer-term proposals are increasingly influential for swaying influencers toward certain advertisers, said influencers throughout the day, who are more wary of working with those chasing vanity metrics.

“No matter what amount of money is on the table if the game, product or service I’m being asked to endorse does not connect with me then it won’t connect with my audience,” said Christopher “Sacriel” Ball, a Twitch influencer that has worked with over 100 brands since January 2017. That represents around 40 percent of the deals he has been offered in that period, he told delegates.

“I have some sponsors who I’ve worked with for years and they bring me into their offices where they tell me about their upcoming products and ask for my feedback,” said Ball. “I’m close with my account my managers at those brands to the point where two of my sponsors were at my wedding.”

Quote of the day
“It [The Mosque attack in New Zealand] was live-streamed on Facebook, which announced [on March 17] how much it was replicated and how hard it was to take down. All I can say is that video didn’t appear on the Guardian platform and if it had I would have had it taken down very fast. They have many billions more than the Guardian, all the finest engineers in the world. So with all those engineers and all that money, they could find a solution to this kind of thing if they really wanted to. But they’re more focused on revenue than being a functioning part of democracy.” — Katherine Viner, editor-in-chief of Guardian News and Media

Three questions with Milton Elias, head of platforms and innovation at News U.K.:

Is your Snapchat Discover channel profitable?
It’s been a journey. It takes a lot of resources to produce that content daily, we’re starting to see a return but we’ve had to really invest in our talent to make sure the content resonates. With any owned and operated platform you have to work within the walls of the garden. So it’s gotten there, finally. A lot is due to how open you are to the market in terms of data and audience, Snap is doing a better job at that now. We’re going to see a lot more brands on there. We have experienced regular growth, the vast majority come back three times a week or more.

Can you give an update on Q Live, your version of HQ Trivia?
We’re averaging 45,000 daily players on Q Live, on average we see users four times a week. We launched [in July] with no advertisers because we had to grow the audience from scratch. We wanted a regular stream of always-engaged users. So now we ran our first campaign with Mastercard during the Brit Awards. It’s about bringing brands partners that are really integrated. We just turned on native ad slots too. We’re hoping it will be profitable down the line. Like with any new project we need to demonstrate effectiveness first.

How has your relationship with platforms changed lately and what more do you want to see from them?
From a commercial relationship, we’re asked more about what our concerns are and how we can work together and include those environments as a part of our bigger partnerships. On Snapchat we put so much effort into making sure the channel is engaging, they seem keen to help make it as easy as possible to extend campaign in there. It’s always easier for our sales team to sell on a platform, it’s a secondary thought of how we can push this outside our platforms but it’s in their interest that we run activity there. I’m seeing more of an openness to having those discussions and being asked “how can we support you” across the board from our partners. That’s changed in probably the last year.

“There should be a gong every time someone says ‘Brexit’ on stage.” — Publisher exec

“I don’t think [Broadcasters Audience Research Board] BARB is moving quickly enough. Project Dovetail [aims to calculate reach across screens) is going to be great when it arrives but the industry needs it to be here now.” –Chris Williams CEO, Publicis Media Exchange UK

“Do we want to use voice as a marketing platform of customer engagement platform? Do we want to look at a short-term activation or an always on? It’s hard for marketers because we want to dip our toe in and see what the ROI is.” — Kathryn Maytham, executive director of digital, Warner Bros. Pictures

“In the world of the internet, we have handed over privacy for utility time and again, and that rubber ad has been stretched as far as it will go before snapping. We have had a massive shift in the last 12 months.” — James Poulter, CEO, Vixen Labs

“In this privacy-first world, first-party relationships are vital because changes to the way browsers are treating third-party cookies are impacting the way data is collected and shared for advertising,” said Google’s svp of ads and commerce Prabhakar Raghavan.

“Scale matters in media more than it ever has done. The number of creative startups continues to grow but how media startups have been a success over the last 10 years?” — Mark Read, CEO of WPP.

Coming up
9:15 a.m.:
The Business of News: A Critical Look at the Present and Future of Media, Impact Makers Stage 1
David Pemsel, CEO Guardian Media Group in conversation with CNN Media and Business reporter, Hadas Gold to dissect the current media landscape and look at what the future could hold.
11:30 a.m.: Speakers from the BBC, The Trade Desk and OpenX discuss the opportunities for OTT. Tech Stars Stage 2.
3:30 p.m.:  Join Digiday’s Lucinda Southern for a panel about how programmatic video is evolving and the hurdles like measurement and fragmentation it faces. Video Tech Stars Stage 2.
4:15 p.m.: HuffPost’s Global Editor-in-Chief Lydia Polgreen and London Mayor Sadiq Khan chat around diversity in the ad industry how the current political climate impacts this. Impact Makers Stage 1.
5:15 p.m.: Kathleen Saxton, founder & CEO of The Lighthouse Company quizzes Sir Martin Sorrell on his next move. Impact Makers Stage 1.

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