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‘Media is a mess’: Creator agency head says influencer marketing is about to make a ‘big pivot’

With influencer marketing on the rise, talent-first creator agency Neuralle has seen exponential growth since its shift into the space five years ago. Managing director Jordan Michaelides told Mumbrella their story is a reflection of what is happening in the industry, and he soon expects influencers to take up more space in a brand’s media budget.

When Neuralle shifted from podcast production to the creator space at the end of 2019, it was because of a need to better the treatment of talent found by Michaelides and his wife and business co-founder, Lauren Michaelides.

He recalled talking to a young 17-year-old creator, and the experiences she had gone through with other managers or brands, and said that was a decision-making conversation.

“There was a lack of professionalism,” he told Mumbrella. “There was obviously a need here where people aren’t getting the services they need or could benefit from… some of the things this girl had gone through, I thought was just a little predatory.”

Then in 2020, as Covid lockdowns hit, Michaelides described a “flurry” of talent trying to find management, and agencies trying to find talent – and Neuralle’s new business model was born.

“Covid really accelerated everything. Lots more people started making content at home, and in the industry, production agencies, creative agencies, they either went broke or had to make staff redundant, and a lot of that budget went to influencers – because it’s easy to pay someone to make something at home.”

He said the change was rapid, and within 12 months, video podcasts had gone from being 80% of Neuralle’s revenue, to just 5%. Influencers were taking over.

Neuralle’s Lauren and Jordan Michaelides

“We had bought all this equipment for video podcasts, used it once, then the idea was no longer needed, so the equipment was no longer needed,” Michaelides explained to Mumbrella.

“That to me is such a good signal of what happened in our business. We bought this asset, never really used it, then sold it all off.

“I think it’s also a sign of where the spend – as a percentage of all media spend – on influencer is going eventually,” he said.

“It means our story is really just a story of what’s happening in the industry – the changes we have made have reflected what has needed to be addressed, basically.”

A recent influencer whitepaper from Havas Red found that consumers are turning to influencers more often, as they are losing trust in traditional media. While Michaelides agreed, he said traditional media still has a role to play.

“Influencers look at traditional media still as a social capital of some sort,” he explained. “And traditional media still looks at influencers as a way to regain trust in the general public.

“Media now is just a mess and people look to certain authorities in different spaces. And influencers are often that authority.”

He said that influencer is currently around 2% of all media spend in Australia. But, the growth year-on-year could soon mean that it could sit equally with other channels at around 8%.

“The growth is significant,” he said. “Out of home spend is 8%, radio is 8-10%, TV is still king, but in the next five years, we’re going to see a big pivot, I think.”

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