Commentary

Bot Or Not? The Solution To Influencer Marketing Fraud Post-Cannes Lions

The 2018 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity came and went, celebrating the hottest creative brands, tech advancements, and innovative strategies reshaping the media world. This year, Cannes Lions announced it was adding a new Social Influencer Category to its awards repertoire, a move heralded as the festival’s recognition of the importance of influencer marketing.

Serendipitously, one of the most talked-about topics from the past few weeks has been the focus on influencer marketing, but instead of the narrative of creativity and authenticity, it was the need for technology and oversight. Brands and agencies stated that they need to make sure consumers are verifiably seeing and engaging with branded content. This was, in large part, sparked by the comments of Keith Weed, CMO of Unilever, during his Cannes panels, where he addressed the need for transparency.

Brands have a valid concern with all the reports of fake followers and engagements being reported in major publications over the past several months. History tends to repeat itself, and this is reminiscent of the ad fraud that was seen in programmatic display, not long ago, with bots being used to generate fake impressions and engagements. This greatly affected the ad tech industry and multibillion-dollar companies we're built as a response to track and remove this threat.

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The first steps were taken last month, as the brands that control the purse strings are demanding transparency and solutions. To understand how CMOs can combat this issue, first they need to understand what a bot actually is.

Bot or not?

In their most basic form, bots are computer programs that are trained to speak like humans. They serve many functions and, depending on the context that you’re speaking about them, they can be both good and bad. 

On the positive side, bots were created to help automate tasks, saving companies money and time by having bots do things that would otherwise require additional manpower to accomplish. Even commonplace virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa have bot functions like automatically gathering the weather or traffic reports. Unfortunately though, bots can also be used for ill, and they are currently a rampant problem that is plaguing virtually every social media network. 

In order to better understand the landscape of bad bots, each type of bot can be broken down by type: vanity bots, political bots, and conversion/traffic bots. Each type of bot was created with the intention of doing things like driving traffic, spreading misinformation, or boosting appearances. 

A select few companies have used AI to identify these bots and provide a rating or percentage to know whether the audience is worth the investment. 

How can Cannes Lions further influencer marketing?

While we are optimistic that brands and agencies are paying attention, whether it's because of a call for transparency or a celebration of creativity, we still strongly feel that more could be done to bring awareness to this burgeoning industry. The Cannes Lions should certainly make an effort to recruit more influencers to attend the annual event. It would be great to see more influencers, technology/data companies, and thought leaders invited to speak on panels and maybe even have an influencer-specific summit. Surely, the beauty of the French Rivera, the fate of billions of brand dollars, along with the seemingly endless supply of rosé is a compelling motivator.

2 comments about "Bot Or Not? The Solution To Influencer Marketing Fraud Post-Cannes Lions".
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  1. Holly Pavlika from Collective Bias, July 19, 2018 at 3:30 p.m.

    We agree that great strides are being taken within the influencer marketing industry to crack down on fraud and increase measurement transparency between influencers and brands. We even took the step this week to raise the standards for the industry by declaring our dedication to cleaning up the influencer mess, so to speak.

    However, we disagree that industry events like Cannes will be the drivers of change. Instead the change should come from within the influencer marketing companies, brands, and agencies who are demanding the authenticity. Our industry shouldn’t have to wait for major events to address concerns, instead take a hard look within to see what can be done to hold everyone accountable and raise the bar for an industry standard.

  2. Michael Schweiger from CEG, July 20, 2018 at 12:56 p.m.

    As a company that represents both sides of the Influencer Marketing process (Brands and Talent) authenticity has always been the focus from day one. I agree with Holly that the industry must be proactive and police ourselves. Where the problem arrises is when fringe companys enter the space or brands are so desperate to try and scale themselves they throw caution (And Money) to the wind just to be in the game.

    We exclusivly represent close to 1000 celebrity influencers and over 150 brands that depend on us to provide honest and accurate data. Any influencer we employ is vigirously vetted before we onboard them. We have developed our own softwear that identifys fake followers and accounts and reject any influencer that has any degree of fraud.

    The big change will come when the platforms themselves begin to identify and block the troll farms that are selling these fake accouts to an unsuspecting public.

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