Match Game: Making Influencer Marketing Work

The tricky dynamics of digital brand partnerships.

ATT Hello Lab Group Shot“With branded content, you’re competing with pop culture, not just with others in your category, for consumers’ attention,” said Jeremy Jones, executive creative director at JWT Atlanta. Indeed, branded marketing campaigns now must offer the optimal blend of creative content, relevant influencers, the right timing and delivery platforms in order to gain traction.

Jones spoke at Advertising Age’s Digital Conference in New York, where influencer marketing and branded content were hot topics. Other speakers included corporate comms and social media executives from AT&T and Chevrolet, along with Bravo reality show host Andy Cohen. Niche social media influencers also weighed in, like Vine star Andres B, dad of the Toronto area Eh Bee Family, and Julz Goddard, Miami-based party host and Snapchat star, aka YesJulz.

The panelists outlined recent examples conducted across a spectrum of media platforms, like AT&T’s Hello Lab and Chevy’s cause related integrations on Cohen’s interactive online show, Watch What Happens Live. They offered takeaways regarding effective collaborations, which may serve as ongoing reminders for PR agencies considering branded programs.

Bravo Watch What Happens Live Puppy LargerAT&T’s Hello Lab isn’t a media vehicle for Adele (or James Corden); it’s a yearlong project in collaboration with media company Fullscreen that highlights 10 young digital and social media influencers who co-create content designed as mobile-based entertainment. The company produced 3 seasons of Summer Break, a real-time social reality video series, SnapperHero, a branded scripted Snapchat program, and Damon and Jo’s Dare to Travel YouTube series.

General Motors’ Chevrolet brand partnered with WhoSay, a celebrity-based social platform that also creates branded or cause marketing programs for their clients. “These are higher velocity relationship for brands to activate,” said Steve Ellis, WhoSay co-founder and CEO.

WhoSay facilitated an ad featuring Bravo’s Cohen on Watch What Happens Live. In the segment, Cohen partnered with Social Tees Animal Rescue to promote Chevy’s #DayItForward to do something nice with the extra 24 hours on Leap Day.

Mutually beneficial relationships are key

“There’s a shorter distance now between digital stars and their audiences, and online communities like being entertained by their friends. So AT&T built their shows as friendships and worked with influencers as proxies to tell their stories,” explained Billy Parks, svp strategic content group at Fullscreen.

The team carefully selected their co-creators, based on their passionate social followings, like Grace Helbig, featured in Hello Lab’s promotional video. Similarly, Damon (Dominique) and Joanna (Franco) “exemplified a get up and go vibe,” said Valerie Vargas, vp advertising and marketing communications at AT&T.

“There are so many influencers, but not all are the right ones,” observed Jamie Barbour, manager of Chevrolet’s digital and social advertising at General Motors. The brand considered various stars’ audiences and online conversations before arriving at Cohen.

Eh Bee Family CrestContent must align with brand’s and influencers’ values

Celebrity and social influencers also check out the marketing offers that come their way to ensure they’re a good fit. Cohen noted that his fan base is loyal and well educated, so all the show’s content and special projects must make sense from that perspective.

Goddard prefers to have an open dialogue with brands that are courting her. She said it helps if she already uses the product in question, like Beats by Dre headphones. She has a passion for sneakers and endorses selected brands to her online community of fans.

If it doesn’t fit, walk away from it

“Brands interested in working with me have sometimes asked me to tone it down. But I let them know that wouldn’t be a good fit, since being a partier is the basis of my brand,” said Goddard.

Conversely, Andres B’s core values revolve around being family-friendly, so he won’t work with brands that involve adult humor or even unhealthy food items.”We have to feel good about it, because at the end of the day we must be comfortable with ourselves and not sell out,” he said.

Andres B also sees a distinction between different types of stars. “Hollywood celebrities have the flexibility to go in or out of character. But we’re real people and we can’t take the risk of going out of character.”

(Images courtesy of AT&T, Bravo TV and Eh Bee Family)

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