Thursday, September 21, 2017

Game of Lawn Chairs

Or why perceptions can be misleading.

I guess you could consider this a public service announcement to watch brands, pr agencies and everyone who covers them.

Let's start out with a definition:

a person or thing that influences:
The most powerful influencer of beliefs is direct experience.
a person who has the power to influence many people, as through social media or traditional media:
Companies look for Facebook influencers who can promote their brand.
per Urban Dictionary: 

A makeup, hairstyle, or fashion blogger who is instafamous only on Instagram or buys "followers" and "likes" and gets free products from companys who fall in their trap of fake fame.

Jeff: "So, what do you do for a living?"
Becky: "Im an influencer, I have 200k followers." 

Okay, the topic of influencer and what is real vs. what is horseshit has been a long running battle in the luxury industry - particularly as it pertains to watch marketing. For better or worse, marketing departments are currently staffed by Millennials who suffer from (you guessed it), millennialitis:

The belief of sales, marketing, and advertising professionals that the Millennial demographic represents a completely unique group of consumers and as such, entirely new approaches must be adopted. Even if the product you are trying to sell is intended for a completely different demographic, such as Depends Adult diapers.

I tried to explain to the Creative Director that the hipster didn't represent our customer demographic, but she's got a bad case of millennialitis.

And this has been an ongoing struggle for many of us who cover these things and try to eke out a living, or at least cover the expenses by selling the odd ad. This challenge was compounded when it became clear that several blogs and online magazines were likely employing less than transparent methods to acquire traffic that was less than organic. And then add into the mix the practice of charging fees for coverage and it became the farce that we are all now participating in.

And if we are very honest, this practice has gone on to some extent even before the digital era. Cash, gifts and nice trips are the grease that ease the wheels of watch coverage.

But then came the era of the influencer. And then marketing departments got lazy, and influencers got greedy. Marketing is a slippery and challenging field as its effectiveness is often a very hard thing to measure. And in the age of digital, the success of marketing has been down to one very simple metric - how many clicks or impressions they received.  More often than not this is a misleading or even false measure owing to click farms and other tactics used to boost traffic. Which brings us to a recent announcement and explanation from the FTC, otherwise known as the Federal Trade Commission.

The long and the short of it is this -

If the blogger, writer, influencer is being paid - they must disclose it. If they are not being paid, then they are fine. But this is currently not really how it has been working.

For those of you interested in the exact language and how this is outlined by the FTC, you can find it here -

The FTC’s Endorsement Guides: What People Are Asking

Maybe, just maybe we will be playing on a level playing field from here on out.

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