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‘They did not deliver value for money’: Agencies respond to government’s influencer ban

Influencer agencies have responded to the federal government's decision to ban the use of paid influencers, arguing the issue isn't about the effectiveness of influencers, but a misunderstanding of the industry.

Following the government’s recent decision to ban all use of influencers in its future marketing campaigns, a spokesperson from the federal government has told Mumbrella it believes influencer marketing “did not deliver value for money” and “could undermine the effectiveness of relevant campaigns”.

“The government has decided that paid social media influencers are not to be used in any advertising and outreach campaigns of the Australian Government,” the spokesperson said.

“The government took the decision to rule out the use of paid social media influencers as they did not deliver value for money and the use of social media influencers could undermine the effectiveness of relevant campaigns.”

The influencer ban came after it was revealed that the government had spent more than $600,000 of taxpayer money in less than two years on influencers.

The campaign consisted of social media influencers posting fitness photos on Instagram in ads for the government’s health department.

The industry responds

Following the decision, Mumbrella reached out to Australian influencer agencies to get their take on the government’s claim that influencers do not deliver value for money.

Suzie Shaw, managing director, We Are Social believes the government’s decision is “short-sighted” and a “shame”.

“This unilateral decision by the Australian Government to exclude social media influencers from their campaigns seems short-sighted in that they absolutely can be effective in efficiently reaching and engaging, particularly hard-to-reach audiences.

“However, it’s much the same as employing any talent to represent or endorse your message: it’s critical to do due diligence in selection and vetting and construct the deal in such a way that does deliver a solid ROI. It’s a shame that they’ve obviously not achieved good outcomes, where many other brands and organisations have.”

Natalie Giddings, managing director at The Remarkables Group, agrees arguing the government’s ban on influencers signifies “some much needed maturing of the industry”.

Giddings says the government made a fundamental error when initially working with influencers as it skipped obtaining “the necessary research and vetting, even in its most basic form in the hope of getting engaging content at scale”.

“When plotting the influencers to work with, you must follow a multi-step process to inform your assessment, as if they are an extension of your brand team. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts.

“An advantage of doing this homework is working with each influencer to their strengths is maximising your budget and return on investment. Influencers are unique in skills, channel etc. And like all media channels and publishers have their own nuances and therefore a customised approach,” Giddings adds.

Social Soup’s CEO Sharyn Smith says the issue has nothing to do with effectiveness of influencer marketing, instead the problem lies with the inadequate choice of influencers.

“Where influencers are chosen through an in-depth vetting process they are chosen for their content relevance, authenticity and audience quality along with a whole host of brand safety checks the effectiveness is increased significantly.”

Smith says influencer marketing is still maturing and this is an important conversation to have within the industry.

“We need to work through increasing the quality of campaigns and clients can get more educated on what makes good influencer marketing. As an industry we need to provide education and tools on how to identify authentic influencers and good vetting processes to match the right influencers to a brand then we’ll increase the reputation in the long run.”

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Vamp’s co-founder of influencer marketing platform Aaron Brooks, takes a similar stance to Smith, arguing influencers can absolutely undermine the effectiveness of a campaign if the business choosing to use influencers doesn’t do its due diligence.

“Influencers could undermine the effectiveness of a campaign, that’s why when choosing ambassadors, brands and organisations should take care to select the right person and do their due diligence. It’s also why we have always carefully curated an invite-only platform, so we can ensure our influencers can bring only value to our client’s campaigns.

“Controversies like this should see the industry become more regulated, and checks more thorough, which can only be a good thing.”

However, Brooks says marketers and brands shouldn’t be put off using influencers, just because it hasn’t worked out for one organisation.

“When chosen well – based on their professionalism and the quality of their content, rather than the number of followers they have – they bring authenticity and amazing engagement to campaigns.”

Erin Murphy, head of digital advocacy at Pulse Communications, says influencer marketing shouldn’t be banned, instead it should be regulated.

“Removing influencers from the marketing mix altogether may indirectly cause Australians to turn their attention to commercial entities as they continue to consume volumes of content online.

“It’s getting harder for organisations to reach their audiences, but when used effectively, influencers provide a valuable way for marketers to tell authentic stories in a targeted way.

“With one in five mobile minutes spent on Facebook, social as a source of information and a way to connect isn’t going anywhere so it’s short-sighted to remove influencers from the mix given their impact on younger demographics today. But influencers should be engaged wisely and carefully selected.

“They still drive resonance as a credible voice to amplify a message to the Australian public if they reflect the values of an initiative in an authentic way. It’s important for marketers to conduct comprehensive audits and brand safety checks to ensure the talent haven’t communicated any conflicting messages in the past and are well informed to advocate specific cause effectively.”

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