Keith Weed's announcement yesterday that Unilever will cease to work with influencers who buy their followers, however, is set to shine a light on the other side of the murky world of influencer marketing.
It is a story that has been boiling away under the public eye, which is usually focused on the failings of some influencers in being transparent. It turns out that many are equally at home whether they are defrauding brands or the public, however.
It is worth pointing out that this doesn't go for all influencers, and there are many good people out there who have earned a large following that is worth tapping into. However, there is a sizable chunk who are knowingly buying audiences which they probably suspect contain a lot of fake users and bots, but they don't want to rock the boat. This means they can appear to have a far wider reach than they really do.
In a recent piece of research by Points North Group, covered in MAD London less than two months ago, it turned out that Ritz Carlton has been seriously duped. The researchers calculated that 72% of the "people" reached through their influencer programme were actually fake.
It wasn't just the hotel group buying nonexistent eyeballs. The research listed Aquaphor in second place for having wasted half its influencer budget, while L'Occitane was in the third spot, having managed to waste 39%. Pampers, Magnum Ice Cream and Olay made it into the Top 10 wasters with campaigns that had fake follower rates of 32%, 20%, and 19%, respectively.
it isn't entirely clear how Unilever is going to spot the influencers who buy or exaggerate their following, but his intervention is very welcome. The Telegraph today says that influencers can earn $20,000 per post, and so this a huge amount of budget to risking on people that may well not having the true following they claim. I'd point out that when we get to huge stars with mega followings, you can probably multiply that cost per post several times over.
So, make no mistake, this is a huge deal and Unilever and Keith Weed deserve a lot of credit for calling out a huge aspect of ad fraud that has been allowed to carry on relatively unchecked. The devil will be in the detail of verification, but the move is a very welcome one.