Can Media Agencies Bring Order To The Chaos Of Influencer Marketing?

turnkeyInfluencer marketing found its stride in 2015, and some expect this year will bring it a big step closer to becoming a mature marketing channel.

Influencer marketing has established itself as a media category, but “it will become even more important if done in an ordered and manageable way,” said Rob Norman, chief digital officer at WPP’s GroupM.

To accomplish that order, GroupM has formed a joint venture with Fullscreen, a network of content creators. The new company, called Playa, was announced at CES this week.

Fullscreen is owned by AT&T and the Chernin Group, a tech and media holding company, but it also added GroupM parent WPP Group to its investor portfolio in 2013.

Fullscreen CEO George Strompolos called the new company “a huge step forward in the art and science of influencer marketing,” though it remains to be seen if the untamed realm of influencer marketing impact can be managed to the standards GroupM desires.

“The hope is that Playa will allow us to institutionalize what had been a buckshot process and to build a corpus of knowledge that will allow this to be more predictable,” said Norman.

But measurement will be a significant challenge, since Playa is largely reliant on the social platforms to track influencer campaigns.

For instance, Snapchat and Pinterest, two companies fighting to join Instagram and YouTube as powerful influencer networks, have only seen influencer spending on their platforms develop in the last year or so, and as a result haven’t yet developed measurement mechanisms. (Though some are starting to. On the same day GroupM and Fullscreen announced their pair-up, Snapchat followed in Facebook’s footsteps by bringing on Millward Brown to validate advertising and influencer impacts on its platform.)

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.”

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1 Comment

  1. The bigger issue is the media industry desire to make Influence a buyable commodity. Marketing will be stuck in low ROI if everyone plays to the same tune of maximising REACH/OTS /EXPOSURE with low regard to depth of engagement and time spent. When there are 1000s of content creators creating content and all are available to brands, what will be the point of difference. It will be the same clutter as we see on any other medium. It is not a sustainable path to growth. It surely adds revenue for agencies as its a new item to sell to clients