Influencer marketing is growing up with tighter contracts

Influencer marketing is moving from a sidelight to a major part of marketing strategies, leading to tighter expectations and contractual obligations that guarantee social stars’ rights and advertisers’ needs.

Agency Digital Brand Architects updated its influencer contracts around two weeks ago to clear up gray areas like post timing and content rights, said Reesa Lake, partner and svp of Digital Brand Architects, at a panel discussion hosted by Women in Influencer Marketing on Sept. 19.

The agency’s new contracts specify the social stars’ time zones and they should post, and they require brands to provide comprehensive creative briefs — if the talent follows the brief, they are not required to reshoot the content. The new contracts also specify where and for how long brands can use or reuse influencer posts, according to Lake.

“It’s important to make sure that the brand and the influencer are on the same page,” she said. “For example, a brand may say to an influencer, ‘We trust you [in your creativity] because you have so many followers.’ But the content may not turn out the way the client hoped, so a comprehensive creative brief from the brand is necessary.”

Meanwhile, Jessy Grossman, talent agent for Don Buchwald & Associates, said the talent agency updated its partnership contracts around two months ago — many brands initiate deals with their own media contracts as well — to include a clause restricting edits once a piece of content is created, and the contracts require briefs from brands or agencies.

“My clients are always looking for repeat business and want to nail the deliverables the first time around. The clause is both to save my clients from extra work but also to ensure the [brand] is happy or the middle person looks good,” said Grossman. “I’m going to add the time zones [of the influencer and the client] into my contracts.”

Joe Gagliese, co-founder and managing partner for talent and marketing agency Viral Nation, said that a year ago, many of his clients didn’t give social stars detailed instructions, so content was often reshot. As a result, his team has put together comprehensive contracts over the past year. For instance, each influencer has a customized brief detailing the storyline, deliverables by platform and by post, estimated posting times based on the influencer’s optimal timing, minimum performance guarantees and FTC compliance, among other items, according to Gagliese.

“There’s also more clarification of the language used,” he said. “For instance, we tell the influencer that brand X wants an Instagram Story consisting of four segments, instead of just saying that the brand wants an Instagram Story.”

Updating influencer contracts is nothing new for some companies. Steve Ellis, CEO for influencer marketing firm WhoSay, said his company addressed the above issues, which many smaller influencer agencies face, early on. “You are seeing some clearing up in the industry where smaller players are adopting a more disciplined process, and they will need a more disciplined measurement [approach],” he said.

Ellis added that one change WhoSay made recently to its media contracts was giving advertisers more options to use influencer content beyond social media, such as in their TV, radio, out-of-home and e-commerce advertising. Of course, there are additional usage fees when the content is used elsewhere beyond what the original contract specifies, he said.

A publishing executive who prefers anonymity said that in influencer marketing, content usage fees can be pegged to the size of the ad spend, but more often, they are simple flat fees broken out by media type or posting medium. “There is a lot of precedent for these types of usage tiers from the older world of modeling and photography agencies, where usage is where they make most their money,” he said.

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