Marketing Briefing: Why influencers are worried about crossing the actor’s strike picket line

Influencers

This Marketing Briefing covers the latest in marketing for Digiday+ members and is distributed over email every Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET. More from the series →

Influencers are navigating the ripple effects of actors joining writers on strike

Initially, they were uncertain about the impact of the Sag-Aftra strike on their work with some continuing to post as usual or even make videos explaining that they’d still attend Hollywood premieres and promote films despite the strike before apologizing for doing so

Now that Sag-Aftra released a FAQ sheet for influencers, making clear that should influencers promote entertainment properties for struck companies they will be barred from joining the union, influencer agency execs say that some influencers are worried about crossing picket lines and asking more questions about a brand’s ties to Hollywood before accepting deals. 

Even so, influencer marketing agency execs believe influencers need more education on their connection to Sag-Aftra and how their promotions now could impact their careers as influencers may see short-term gain opportunities without thinking through the negative repercussions in the long-term. More established creators with representation are more aware of what is or isn’t crossing a picket line, according to influencer marketing agency execs, who say that bigger creators have pulled out of attending movie premieres. 

“Well-established creators all seem to be complying with the strike and Sag-Aftra’s rules not to promote struck work,” wrote Lia Haberman, founder ICYMI, a creator economy newsletter, and influencer marketing instructor at UCLA Extension, in an email. “They understand what’s at stake. But not everyone has a direct line to Sag-Aftra or a Hollywood agency and that’s where the confusion seems to stem from. Smaller influencers don’t know where to turn for trustworthy advice.” 

Overall there’s been a “lot of chatter and confusion,” said Danielle Wiley, founder of influencer marketing shop Sway Group. While some influencers are members of Sag-Aftra, as the guild allowed creators to join in 2021 and has been reportedly working to get more to join, not all influencers are. “The initial instinct was this doesn’t impact me but then Sag-Aftra came out with their guidelines. Even if they aren’t members now, if influencers talk about anything for pay or organically that will impact them moving forward. From our perspective, if creators can afford not to take on any of that work they should avoid doing it.” 

While influencers are clear on not attending movie premieres, screening, posting about movies or creating content for struck companies, influencers are confused about other connections when it comes to working with various brands.

“SAG is prohibiting ‘promoting screenings or content produced by struck companies,’” wrote Lisa Singelyn, vp of celebrity and influencer at Platinum Rye Entertainment, the talent and IP procurement branch of The Marketing Arm. “The confusion for influencers comes in the word ‘content.’” 

Singelyn continued: “Influencers are wondering, Can I promote the Disney Cruise I am set to promote, but not ‘Haunted Mansion?’ Is Amazon live streaming considered ‘promoting content’? Can I promote Barbie dolls but not the movie? Most of the major studios understand that influencers as well as their series stars are off limits throughout the strike, so we are now seeing a slowdown in those requests.” 

Influencer marketing execs expect these questions to continue as the strike goes on as influencers are worried about unintentionally scabbing and the backlash that would bring. That’s not to say that all influencers are worried as some don’t see the connection between their work and that of Hollywood and have no plans to pursue careers in Hollywood, according to influencer marketing execs.

Even so, overall influencer agency execs say that influencers are asking more questions and proceeding with more caution than they were in the early stages of the strike.

3 Questions with Karen Graham, CMO of Evite, an online invitation company

You recently partnered with Sesame Street with invitation designs featuring Sesame Street characters. What are the marketing goals around brand partnerships?

You get a really nice halo when you have these brand partnerships because there is so much recognition for a lot of these characters and brands. Just from an awareness and upper funnel perspective, that’s definitely really helpful. And it feeds into our whole strategy around being very relevant with what’s going on in pop culture, serving the millennial parent and Gen Z segments. When you think about these templates, they serve as the baseline for how we show up. That will show up in all kinds of marketing across [the company.]

How are you using the partnerships for your own content?

We’ll bring in influencers to throw a Sesame Street party for their toddler and then create content around that. Then we will pay for that content and amplify it across Instagram and TikTok, for example. We also feature it on our blog. We’ve seen huge growth. We’ve doubled our traffic to the blog in the last year and a lot of that is because we are providing so much inspiration and party coverage and tips and tricks around party planning. That influencer-fueled content also ended up being a connected TV commercial that we just wrapped. It really does become something that permeates through every piece of marketing.

Social media is changing and the pressure to produce more and more content is ramping up. How is Evite handling that? 

We need to continue to feed the machine, and doing that requires a lot of thought and energy and resources. It’s a lot of fun to do, but it does require a lot of planning. That’s definitely something that we are going after from a strategic perspective. It’s a mix of what are we creating on our own and what are we reposting that we know people want to see. — Kimeko McCoy

By the numbers

Barbiecore has been enjoying a steady and sustained rise in popularity in recent weeks due to celebrity endorsements, social media and influencers. With that being the case, Barbiecore may continue to grow well after the movie’s release — and TikTok has become the platform of choice for Gen Z Barbie fans to create content. A recent social media study conducted by Snack Content found there has been an increase in the Barbie content over the last year. Find details from the report below:

  • Use of the #Barbie hashtag on TikTok, YouTube and Instagram Reels has skyrocketed 145% the first half of this year, compared to the same period last year.
  • Barbie mentions on TikTok have surged an astounding 191% compared to last year.
  • Barbie mentions on YouTube are up 80% over last year.

Quote of the week

“Most brand-side marketers understand that video games are important, but that not everybody has flipped that switch in their head where it’s like, ‘when we’re doing our budget planning for next year, a chunk of that needs to go to games.’ So, we’ll get there. We’ll definitely get there. We’re getting there right now.”

— Pete Basgen, director of gaming and esports at Wavemaker U.S., when asked about the state of video game investments by marketers.

What we’ve covered

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