It appears that influencer marketing has the greatest mountain to climb here, given that eMarketer figures show that only half automatically signal a product or service is being mentioned as part of a sponsorship deal.
The roadmap was set last year as the FMCG giants pushed for greater visibility in the advertising supply chain, and it's the compliance challenge of the decade as GDPR brings EU citizens great data protection rights from May 25th onward.
Given that this is the direction things are headed makes it all the more surprising to see that influencers are not protecting their audiences better. Millennials -- and particularly Gen Z -- know all about their favourite YouTube stars waxing lyrical about the shade of lipstick they have just used or which yummy snack or chewing gum the 'star' is chewing away on. The problem is that from the conversations I've had with my kids, the influencers are not always very clear on when a message is financially incentivised.
There are a couple of downsides to this approach. The most obvious is that audiences lose their adoration of a vlogger or blogger sensation and they also can never be quite sure if that really is their favourite celebrity's favourite pair of jeans or not. When there's no way of knowing, it casts doubt on any recommendation a star makes.
That cuts both ways. Audiences are unsure what the truth is and brands lose out because they are suspected of having bought favour with the vlogger, even if they haven't. That's obviously bad for sponsored campaigns but also for any mentions a brand may get as an unpaid recommendation from a blogger.
So, the eMarketer research struck a chord with me, and I'm sure with many others. Just 52% of influencers say they take the front foot and always automatically label content as sponsored. Interestingly, just 7% say they never do, leaving the crucially important 41% who say they do, but only if told to do so.
What can we make from this? Only half of influencers seriously get it. Only half realise they have to respect their audience. I would seriously have thought the figure would have risen above this by now.
The same can almost certainly be said of brands. If there is even a question mark over honesty, then advertisers simply aren't getting how they are hoodwinking the public. By definition, the statistic suggests that a lot of brands don't insist on an "ad" hashtag or sponsored content sign being put on the screen.
This risks a lack of transparency -- and it can land a brand and the influencer in hot water with the ASA.
The message appears to have sunk in with around half of influencers, but for more than four in ten who are waiting to be told to signal a commercial relationship transparency would appear to be a long way off in the murky waters of influencer marketing.
An influencer’s audience understands the commercial imperative to do sponsored work. The money earned from this enables the influencer to dedicate more time to creating organic content.
But, there must be a common thread in the tone of voice and shared values between influencer and brand. Get it right and influence will be strengthened. Get it wrong - or work with too many different brands - and an influencer’s authenticity will be lost. Soon to be followed by their audience.
Consumers don't have a problem with seeing sponsored content as long as:
There are too many BANJO influencers (those who Bang Another iNfluencer Job Out without any affinity with the sponsoring brand).
It's these 'influencers' who have a problem declaring a material connection with brands because the creative is ill-conceived and not in keeping with their own brand values. These influencer 'advertisements' then fail to generate the same level of engagement as their organic content does.