Maybe I'm just old and grumpy but, to me, the influencer thing is fad-driven, lazy and opportunistic marketing that's throwing good money at fake ideals. Fakes always get found out, so the brands that support the mirages must surely get muddied too?
I read with disbelief, in Helen Chandler-Wilde's Saturday Telegraph piece, that a businessman from overseas has set up an influencing factory he calls a 'creator house' in Uxbridge. Aspirational Uxbridge. Eight overnight TikTok sensations have been installed in the "Uxbridge Mansion" to "promote their careers on social media" by making prank-filled TikToks using products placed by brands.
The concept of an influencer isn't new of course. Long before social media became a social ill, we were using brand ambassadors to penetrate hard to reach target groups. It was a little bit undercover. Then, of course there was - and still is - a thriving and self-regulated product placement industry too. I remember working on PRing a Wild Turkey product placement in one of Sly Stallone's movies in the nineties. It was fun and effective too. Most importantly, the placement was part of a plan to communicate something other than pure fame. What is new these days, to me at least, is what constitutes having influence.
Creator Houses seem a little Stock Aitken Waterman to me? You can earn good money creating synthetic product, but it's no substitute for the real thing. As a brand would you rather be Donovan or Jason Donovan?
The very same brands that are probably talking in brand workshops about authenticity are throwing product at its antithesis. At a time when the tide is turning against rampant consumerism in favour of something a little more future-friendly, it would be good to see our industry thinking about long-term value instead of short-term caché (alt. cash) earned on the back of synthetic influence.
"Josh picks up some of the paper money from the floor. "I'm holding this $100 bill now, but it's not real. And that's like social media, We see something, but it's not real."