Influencers, the present and future of advertising

Brands are approaching the most influential figures on social networks as a new channel of publicity amid the debate on how to regulate sponsored content

Marta Reche is the creator of the blog MartaBarcelonaStyle
Marta Reche is the creator of the blog MartaBarcelonaStyle
The term influencer refers to people with a prominent online reputation, with a major presence on social networks and a community that supports them. In the digital ecosystem and in that of marketing, in which content is considered king, brands are looking to these new figures to find new channels of advertising to help make them more visible to a larger and more varied audience. In the conference, The Future of Advertising, some of these figures explained how they became influencers and their relationship with the brands that contact them.

One of them is Marta Reche, creator of the blog, MartaBarcelonaStyle. She began it because she could not find any she liked and so decided to fully dedicate herself to her own. Around her she has created a community of followers that means she receives a constant stream of proposals from different brands looking for her recommendation. "The relationship with the brand depends on its aims. There are a thousand variations, and the channel depends on the objectives," says Reche.

She says that she finds brands "to be quite open and trusting of my judgement as to what works." Above all, she says, "if I have to change my style, it does not work and, moreover, it damages my reputation."

Anna Gorse is a 22-year-old who makes a living on YouTube as ladylondown. "My public knows that I like doing advertising and that it helps the creation of content," she says. In her case, she believes that brands "normally lack flexibility at the beginning, but you have to make it clear to them what can and cannot be done."

The Influencers table during The Future of Advertising conference

The limit between recommendation and advertising
While in the United States it is considered an infraction for bloggers not to declare if content is sponsored, here it is not regulated. Thus, each influencer manages things in their own way, either more or less openly. In the case of Marta Reche, she points out that with sponsored content, which basically translates as the recommendation of products, "you have to know how to do it, you need experience so that the advertising is not so obvious." It is a position that contrasts with that of Gorse, for whom "in the same way that in the bakers they do not apologise for selling bread, there is no problem in saying that you are selling a product to your followers."

Sabrina Ayala has created her community of followers around her creations on "The consumers expect the advertising to go unnoticed, they trust your opinion. Therefore, you cannot just sell anything because they are paying you," she says. Ayala points out that "brands have to understand that this is a job, they cannot expect just to buy you just like that. We have invested time that now has to bear fruit."

All three influencers agree in only accepting agreements with brands that line up with what is expected of them by their followers. "I have turned down men's clothes and watches or walking boots. A glance at my blog shows that they are not areas I cover," she says ironically.

Gorse is more blunt and insists that "sometimes they ask you for things you do not do or that you know your public will not like." Therefore, she invites brands to think carefully about who they ask things from. "Brands are very lazy," she says. Nevertheless, she recognises that "if you had no morals or ethics, you could end up with many more subscribers."

Explaining stories around them
Jordi Pi is executive producer of digital media at the Corporació Catalana de Mitjans Audiovisuals (CCMA). The country's public media has also taken on new channels through the creation of content with the presence of brands that pick up a large part of the cost. "Brands have to begin explaining stories from the creators of content. They have to give up certain things to understand the language of the creators," reflects Pi, who invites them to "stop doing awful 20-second adverts on social networks."

For Jordi Pi, "if the brand is a commodity and is part of the story, not only is not bothersome but it can even act as leverage." The CCMA has experienced this with the web series Em dic Manel. "What bothers people is gratuitous exposition, the consumer knows the role played by brands and it is about giving them the role they deserve," he insists.

"There are no bad brands, just bad messages and bad stories," says Pi. At the same time, he recommends brands be patient in their dealings with these content creators. "When they try to marry the two models, the problem is that it produces something unstable. It makes no sense proposing a routine to a YouTuber," he makes it clear. To his mind, however, "it has to become a little more professional to more clearly monetise this world and balance out proposals."
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