The David Dobrik Vlog Squad Scandal Reinforces Group Influencer Standards

A new lesson in brand safety

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Recent events, such as the allegations of sexual assault made against a former member of David Dobrik’s Vlog Squad, have uncovered new measures that brands should be taking—ones that I predict we’ll be seeing a lot more frequently.

Unfortunately, an influencer behaving in a negative way is nothing new. However, what the Dobrik case has shown us is that advertisers should be reviewing brand safety in terms of creator groups, with partnerships no longer being contingent on the behavior of the creators themselves but on the group of creators in which they operate. In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of creator groups, creator houses, creator collectives and so on. This will be a group of creators who regularly feature in, produce and promote each other’s content and ventures. While this can work extremely favorably for advertisers, as it is likely to increase exposure, it can also mean that, should something go wrong with one member of the group, each individual is affected. Thus, advertisers should consider ensuring that they vet creators as a group.

In this day and age, brand safety is more important than ever. A brand’s image and reputation precede them in ways we have never seen before, and news of damage to their reputation spreads even faster. Brands can get the maximum assurances of brand safety in influencer marketing by conducting detailed and deep vetting processes on the influencers with whom they choose to work.

Advertisers can also learn much from the events surrounding David Dobrik about creator contracts. Since the allegations came to light, Dobrik has been dropped by 13 of his sponsors, while also stepping down from Dispo, an app he co-founded, and having his YouTube channel demonetized. While parting ways with a creator following a scandal certainly sends customers the right message, it may not actually act to compensate the brand. Instead, I would predict that influencer marketing contracts will become much tighter following this case, requiring certain indemnities to compensate the brand, should standards of brand safety fail to be met.

The allegations surrounding David Dobrik’s Vlog Squad have caused immense discussion among the influencer marketing industry, highlighting the huge importance of brand safety, and encouraging advertisers to look for new and more secure ways to ensure it. While events like this are rare, advertisers should take important lessons from it. A thorough vetting process into creators and their associates will help brands to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that events like this do not happen, while tight contracts that ensure compensation will protect brands and help them to move forward in the instance that it does.