The IAB Offers Guidance to Publishers and Marketers Considering Partnering With Influencers

Despite risks, many remain bullish on the tactic

Influencers lend star quality and storytelling prowess. Getty Images
Headshot of A.J. Katz

The Interactive Advertising Bureau’s social media, native and content committee has produced an in-depth guide for publishers considering new influencer marketing options as part of their branded advertising packages and for marketers and their agencies trying to figure out how to best leverage influencer marketing programs.

Publishers are turning to influencer marketing to reach consumers in more native ways to be as credible and relevant to their desired audiences as possible. According to the guide, marketers can benefit the most from publishers’ influencer marketing programs first by asking questions about the program, including how publishers identify their influencers, the incremental cost of the influencer program as part of a branded content package and understanding the analytic tools the publisher has access to.

“The most eye-opening revelation from the guide, in my opinion, was number of suggested questions that brands or agencies should ask of their publisher partners before entering into an influencer program as part of a publisher’s branded content offering,” IAB vice president Susan Borst told Adweek. “From influencer identification to cost and execution, measurement and data, and even disclosure questions, it’s important to ask questions up front to fully understand the scope and potential impact of a publisher’s influencer offering to ensure success relative to the brand’s goals.”

Influencer marketing is defined as a tactic by which a brand, agency or publisher works with tastemakers and trendsetters to drive brand messages to meet strategic goals. These social influencers are generally under 35; have established social media followings on platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Vine and Snapchat; and have true star quality and a unique storytelling prowess.

Refinery29 brand strategist Finola Austin, one of the co-chairs of the committee that developed the guide, told Adweek that influencers in the case of Refinery29 “bring another dynamic layer of engagement, which allows us to unlock the most meaningful partnerships between brands and talent.”

“Publishers are in the business of telling great stories, and that’s why brands turn to media partners and native advertising to build relevance with consumers,”Austin said.

Refinery29, a digital lifestyle brand primarily catering to Gen Y and Gen Z women,  also has an in-house digital talent collective called Here & Now, which specializes in understanding who celebrities and influencers are and why their audience is coming to them.

Brands always take a risk when they to attach themselves to influencers. What does a marketer do if one of its influencers ends up becoming a nightmare for the brand and starts generating headlines for the wrong reasons?

“Smart brands do their best to protect against this by aligning with appropriate influencer talent and values as well as the values of their followings in addition to relying on talent desks with deep knowledge of the players in the industry to identify, contract and manage the right influencer,” Austin said.

Then, there’s the question of the bottom line.

Are publishers seeing their influencer marketing dollars work toward increased subscriptions, or ad revenue?

“Not all consumers are willing to pay for the content they consume,” Austin said. “However, we’ve found audiences are very happy to consume branded content when it comes from a trusted voice, be that a publisher or influencer talent. That’s why we’re seeing an explosion in publishers entering the influencer space.”

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, so what kind of guidance is IAB’s guide actually giving publishers?

“The only definitive guidance that IAB can provide for publisher use of influencer marketing relates to disclosure, and the guide goes into great detail about Federal Trade Commission guidelines, which publishers, brands and influencers alike must be aware of,” Borst said. “The FTC makes it very clear what a material connection is, which is stated in the guide.  Disclosure is of paramount importance, and disclosure benefits the consumer, the brand, the publisher and the influencers themselves. Beyond disclosure guidance, the the guide provides best practice suggestions that will vary on a case-by-case basis based on brand goals and publisher offerings.”

@ajkatztv A.J. Katz is the senior editor of Adweek's TVNewser.