Why the Native Advertising Institute is wrong about the Best Influencer Marketing Campaign Award

The Native Advertising Institute has proudly boasted last year's award-winning Best Influencer Marketing Campaign by Adidas and ELLE didn't pay its ambassadors. Natalie Giddings argues this is immature at best and harmful at worst - and wants things to be different this year.

The 2017 Native Advertising Institute Awards entry deadline recently closed. Last week marked the beginning of the jury sessions to nominate and acknowledge the best native advertising work across the globe of 2016 / 2017.

Founded in 2015 in Copenhagen, Denmark, there is much positivity around the awards and the institute, driving education and showcasing some outstanding work.  The NAI’s stated mission is to be “a global think tank dedicated to leading, educating and connecting marketing, advertising, communications and publishing professionals in an effort to advance the native advertising industry.” I’ve followed them closely since their inception.

Something struck me when reading the previous award winner for the Best Influencer Marketing Campaign by Adidas x ELLE Copenhagen Run. “Neither ELLE nor Adidas paid the ambassadors for their involvement in the campaign, and their participation and Instagram posts were voluntary.” You can see it for yourself on page 13 of the NAI Awards Wrap-up eBook.

Proudly promoting the unpaid engagement of social influencers in an award entry is one thing. Awarding that campaign as a winner in the category is immature at best, harmful at worst. This is not servicing or advancing our industry.

My bet is most professionals in the process of planning and executing the other award-winning campaigns in the other categories would have been paid. Despite what is presented on camera, these influencers work damn hard.

Aussie beauty influencer Nikkia Joy won the Beauty category of Rising Soci@l Star talent search last year. Her genuine reviews of beauty products on her YouTube channel means she has a committed, engaged audience of 485,00 subscribers.

Nikkia produces three videos from her home studio per week, each video requiring a full day of preparation, filming and editing. In addition to uploading these three videos to her YouTube channel, she creates dedicated content for her Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat channels. She receives private messages from her audience every day, each of which she responds to. This is in addition to responding to brand pitches.

Nikkia recently shared this is often a 12-hour, six to seven days per week gig. Just because this type of job wasn’t around a few years ago, doesn’t mean we should be asking for freebies. Is this 2010? At the very least, this kind of entry should be classified in the public relations category, not influencer marketing or native content.

You could argue the influencers may have received the running gear as a gift. This isn’t clear as the gifts (if they were) haven’t been disclosed.  

Let’s explore for a moment the time required of these influencers to take part in this campaign:

  • Time to prepare, including travel to and participate in the fun run  
  • Receiving the brief, ideating content for appraisal, reading and interpretation of the brand guidelines
  • Post event, creating, revising and finalising content, and scheduling across multiple platforms
  • Additional time to liaise with the brand and agency representatives as well as content revisions

These steps are all worth something. Based on our estimation, this would take an individual influencer at least two days of work to complete.  

Perhaps campaigns like this continue to exist because there is a large volume of micro-influencers looking to build up their portfolio or creditability.

According to the evaluation model we have developed at The Remarkables Group, a more accurate figure would be closer to 157,344 people reached. Worse still, was the rather antiquated – and impossible to estimate – claim that the campaign secured a media value €285,333 ($423,942 AUD).

I do understand influencer marketing is still in its infancy. I remember when it was just the intern who looked after social media when consulting with clients in the early days. Fast forward a few years, brands have qualified and seasoned marketers overseeing dedicated departments and sophisticated software for social media with integration strategies that impact the entire business.

My hope is that the NAI don’t have a repeat of last year’s awards in the Influencer Marketing Campaign category and the campaigns recognised not only pay their influencers for their involvement, but also openly celebrate that fact.

Natalie Giddings is the owner and director of The Remarkables Group


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.