Additionally, a single social celebrity's audience engagement can’t be easily synced or reported across platforms. This is a growing problem since content creators – many of whom used to be just YouTube stars or “Insta-famous” – are adding ever more distribution platforms.
Examples from Fullscreen's roster include the Fine brothers, who leverage Twitter and Instagram followings to support their YouTube series, or Vine aficionado Zach King, who also has an influencer presence on Snapchat.
If a video on YouTube is good, then it’s going to be shared not just on YouTube but on fan channels like “We Heart It,” Twitter, Imgur and mobile messaging apps. “There’s no good way to measure that,” said Strompolos. “They can’t pixel that on YouTube.”
And that's to say nothing of the long tail of niche sites and social apps.
For instance, self-described "shopper advocate network" Needle tags the owned-and-operated sites of the influencers on its platform, and by embedding a tag on the sites of its retail clients, it can measure the performance of influencer campaigns, according to COO Scott Pulsipher.
Time will tell if GroupM's investment is part of a trend toward greater media agency involvement in the influencer marketing space. Agnes Kozera, COO at the content creator marketplace Famebit, suggests it is. She said her startup has seen client budgets shift from PR and creative agencies to paid media buyers.
Pulsipher and other influencer network execs also noted a pivot from earned to paid media, which comes with higher expectations for quantifiable ROI.
Strompolos said other factors also bridge influencer marketing with paid media, such as the application of lookalike audiences and retargeting that come with ad tech.
“That’s why we need to make it as turnkey as buying digital media,” he said.
Playa will be focused narrowly on digital video, which alleviates some of the measurement pressures. “This is a YouTube and other short-form video-led conversation, so we’re not concerned about people having to take photos of screenshots on Snapchat for measurement,” said Norman, alluding to the difficulties in measuring sponsored Snapchat campaigns that quite literally disappear.
Influencers have become media channels unto themselves, but ones that move fluidly from platform to platform and which lack radio, print or TV’s easily defined audiences.
As Strompolos said about honing influencer metrics so the category could be scaled for marketers, “If you have a formula for social media performance, it’s going to be different 30 days from now anyway.”
“What media agencies have always been good at is taking very fragmented portfolios of anything and making order from the chaos,” said Norman. “It’s what most media plans are about, almost.”