What Do iJustine, MysteryGuitarMan, The Gap and Virgin America Have In Common?

On the podium’s left couch, Joe Penna and Justine Ezarik, better known as MysteryGuitarMan and iJustine – two members of Generation Y who typically have a million or more viewers for each of their YouTube videos. On the right couch, Ivy Ross, CMO of GAP and Jill Fletcher, Social Media Manager of Virgin America. Four brands and moderator Jason Harris of Mekanism talking about social media influencers. Yes, I typed that right. Four brands.

After the jump, how two of the brands are also entertainment channels helping product brands get deeper into content creation. Plus, an assortment of other takeaways from day four of Advertising Week.

Brands such as GAP and Virgin America are increasingly using those who may be able to influence their social network connections in ways formerly considered celebrity endorsers. Among the differences, though are that these influencers also control their own distributions feeds (e.g., YouTube, Twitter, Facebook) and are involved in the creation of the commercial content.

Penna and Ezarik are smart about the power and limitations of their massive networks of friends. They would be foolish not to monetize their success, though too much or the wrong kind of advertising could blow up what each has built over a number of years. They cited that they limit the number of paid videos they create and would only do videos for products they would use.

When asked about appearing in television commercials, Ezarik commented that ads in which she appears need to be online, because that’s where her followers are. “My audience sits on the net all day,” she said. “Traditional celebrities don’t have that kind of following.”

When I asked about metrics used to choose influencers, Ross responded that she looks for those who would match the mission of the particular project and who had a wide network of quality followers to spread the message. “You can’t manufacture these relationships, ” said Fletcher. “They have to be natural and organic.”

Looking ahead, all agreed that content will get better, with higher production values, as product brands spend more on social media influencers to pitch their coveted audiences.

This and that:

  • Caught the tail end of a session with four panelist debating whether creative could be managed by a team or if one person needed to be the ultimate arbiter of what was and was not a great idea. Didn’t stick around.
  • On another panel, Huffington Post‘s CEO Eric Hippeau talked just a bit about his site’s content moderation process that includes both automated and human elements. Once comment moderation was made safer, the number of comments shot up. People feel they can speak more freely when they don’t fear irrational attack.
  • As I wrapped the day, I was thinking about those who came to Advertising Week to pitch the ad agencies with presentations, displays and snacks. Facebook‘s full court press was spot on and I can’t image it was not a huge win for them. Who didn’t do so well? Er, sorry, don’t want that opinion to come back and bite me.

Today is the Social Ad Summit and be reminded my presentation is just after lunch.