Unilever shuns influencers who pay for followers

The company’s chief marketing officer said the move is meant to ‘rebuild trust back into our digital ecosystems and wider society.’

Unilever is cracking down on shady influencer marketing practices—and it’s encouraging other brand managers to do the same.

On Monday, the company announced that it would no longer work with influencers who bought followers. It also promised that its brands wouldn’t purchase followers and that it would favor advertising partners and platforms that are working on increasing transparency within digital marketing efforts.

The call for change comes from a marketing industry giant: Unilever spent more than $9 billion on marketing last year. It also comes at a time when the popularity of influencer marketing continues to grow.

The Drum reported:

A recent study from Rakuten Marketing found that marketers would pay up to £75,000 for a single post mentioning their brand by someone with over one million followers while they would pay ‘micro-infleuncers’ – those with under 10,000 followers – an average of £1,500 for a single post.

But, it has recently emerged that as many as 15% of Twitters ‘users’ may be fake while up to 60 million Facebook accounts could also be automated, or bot, accounts.

Variety reported:

Bloggers, vloggers, and tweeters have reason to increase their followings. The more people they reach, the more marketers might pay them. Unilever cited data collected by Captiv8, a company that connects influencers to brands, showing an influencer with 100,000 followers might earn an average of $2,000 for a promotional tweet, while an influencer with a million followers might earn $20,000. A January investigation by The New York Times examined one company, Devumi, that sold and resold a vein of 3.5 million automated accounts to various customers who wanted to gain more followers on Twitter.

The Wall Street Journal reported:

Points North Group said it has found that midlevel influencers—those with between 50,000 and 100,000 followers—often have about 20% fake followers. The company, which analyzes influencer marketing, estimated that in North America, brands pay influencers millions of dollars each month to reach follower that are fake.

The rise of fraud in the sector has been a wake-up call for marketers who pay influencers based on the number of followers they have.

… Despite the problems, advertisers are still enamored with the marketing technique. A survey of 158 marketers conducted late last year for the Association of National Advertisers found that 75% of those polled use influencer marketing and almost half of them planned to increase their spending on the practice over the next year.

In a press release, Weed said:

In February, I said we needed to rebuild trust back into our digital ecosystems and wider society. One of the ways we can do that is to increase integrity and transparency in the influencer space. We need to address this through responsible content, responsible platforms and responsible infrastructure.

At Unilever, we believe influencers are an important way to reach consumers and grow our brands. Their power comes from a deep, authentic and direct connection with people, but certain practices like buying followers can easily undermine these relationships.

… We need to take urgent action now to rebuild trust before it’s gone forever.

Weed’s call, though bold, shouldn’t come as a surprise to marketers seeking to foster consumers’ trust.

“As an industry, however, we should already have embedded in our everyday work this kind of thinking,” The Drum’s Cristina Sarraille wrote.

Sarraille continued:

The word influencer has started to gain a bad rep, but it’s up to us, the agencies, to help our clients navigate this ever changing ecosystem and help them make the right empirical choices for their brand. We push for establishing longer-term relationships between brands and influencers: as it’s beneficial for everyone.

The Wall Street Journal reported:

“At best it’s misleading, at worst it’s corrupt,” Unilever marketing chief Keith Weed said in an interview. “For the sake of a few bad apples in the barrel, I believe there is risk in the area of influencers.

What do you think of Unilever’s announcement, PR Daily readers?

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