influencer marketing


Making Influencer Marketing Responsible, Transparent

Influencer marketing is fast becoming a billion-dollar industry as a growing number of major advertisers make the discipline part of their marketing mix.  But influencer marketing also poses a range of challenges.

Those conflicting points of view will be examined in the first-ever Association of National Advertisers Influencer Marketing Conference later this month in New York.  

Conference sessions include a fireside chat with Casey DePalma, head of public relations, influencer marketing and digital engagement for Unilever NA and Debra Aho Williamson, principal analyst for eMarketer.  DePalma provides a preview of their session in the following interview.

Q. A recent Wall Street Journal article questions the value of influencer marketing, citing issues including lack of measurement ability, inflated number of followers, and influencers promoting products they don’t use. If Unilever’s chief marketer sent this article to you, how would you defend Unilever’s use of influencers?



A. With any “new” media channel, there are opportunities and challenges. The Journal article underscores the need for transparency and verification of platform data and the importance of having viable measurement opportunities to truly understand the impact of influencer marketing. This is why we launched our efforts last year to increase transparency in the influencer marketing space. As a reminder, we committed to three areas:

  • Transparency from influencers: we want to make sure we’re working with influencers and creators who are committed to delivering authentic activity  
  • Transparency from brands: we of course do not want our brands to engage in inauthentic activity
  • And transparency from platforms, which is consistent in our efforts to work with partners committed to improving the digital ecosystem

The article is also an indicator that the sector is starting to shake out lazy influencer execution — often transactional and short-term campaigns — and highlights the imperative of thinking about people with influence more holistically. We should not limit influencer marketing to social influencers. We need to think holistically about how we build networks of advocates for our brands.

Q. So how do you measure the effectiveness of Unilever’s influencer marketing? What direction do you see the industry moving in 2020 and beyond?

A.  Third party verification and authentication are extremely important for the long-term viability of influencer marketing. Five years ago we were talking about how difficult it would be to get to agreed viewability terms and vendors, and we’ve made tremendous progress in that space.  Now we need to get on a similar path in the influencer space. 

Q. What traits and qualities should a marketer look for when collaborating with an influencer? 

A. The value of influencer marketing is at the intersection of reach, credibility and authenticity.

For Unilever specifically, we look for alignment between a brand’s purpose and influencer’s purpose – we know this will increase affinity, help in their understanding of the brand, and help to increase overall impact of the partnership.

Q. What’s the key to successful influencer marketing?

A. Think holistically and long term. Social influencers are just one piece of the influencer ecosystem. It’s important for brands to think about all their partners, advocates, etc., with “influence” and how they work together as a strong and ongoing network of ambassadors for a brand. 

Q. Can you give an example of a Unilever influencer marketing campaign that was particularly successful? 

A. TRESemmé has helped create the hairstyles of New York Fashion Week for nearly 20 seasons. In February 2017, the brand flipped its approach to debut an influencer-led, brand-enabled approach for all Fashion Week content. 

This new approach drove efficiencies by moving away from production-heavy content to mostly influencer created content, which put runway-ready hair content in more easy-to-find and authentic places.  

Three years and five seasons later, this long term approach has garnered YOY increases in metrics associated with the brand including increased engagement.

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