James: Welcome Negronis with Nord episode 40. We've got a special guest today, Phoebe Bain, who was covering creators and influencers at Morning Brew and is just starting as a senior reporter at Ad Age. We have just finished a couple of drinks and a amazing conversation about everything that happened in influencer marketing last year. Everything that we think is going to happen next year anyway, we are lucky to catch Phoebe between gigs where she can really dish on what she believes, what she thinks is gonna happen in the space and let's jump into it.
Also, special shout out to DonYe, who is our Director of Creator Initiatives here at Fohr, who was just announced as part of Forbes 30 under 30. An honor that I never got, which is frustrating, but really nice for her <laugh>. So, you know, go to DonYe's Instagram, give her a round of applause.
Feels like we haven't done a guest episode for a while, but I have Phoebe Bain here who we have talked so many times but have never met in person until now, probably because of Covid. But welcome.
Phoebe: Thank you so much. I'm happy to be here.
James: We love having you. So we talked a bunch when you were at Morning Brew covering creators and influencers and now you are moving to Adage and we caught you in between. So first of all, how are you enjoy enjoying your like little two week vacation with no job?
Phoebe: I know we were talking about this before the podcast started, but I've never done this before. Like, I graduated college and started the Business Insider within like the same week. So I've never done this. Every, all of my friends and family were like, you never take off. You never take off. Take time. So there you go. Here I am <laugh> talking about work on a podcast.
James: We'll catch, we'll catch up in like six months. Maybe you'll look back on this and be like, thank God I took that time off cuz I've been so busy. Who?
Phoebe: Yeah. I just haven't, I also haven't been really busy in a while. Like, I started at Morning Brew when we had 30 employees before the company sold to Business Insider. Yeah. And now we have 300 employees. So like, I've seen it in that startup trying to sell type of phase, going to like a midsize company kind of phase. So it was really just three years there of like, you know, building up all of these tasks that I was doing. And I started the Marketing Brew newsletter for Morning Brew doing it all on my own. And then that was like, the first year was like, you know, 12, 14 hours a day, six days a week, just grinding. And then the next two years were like just offboarding all of those things. <Laugh>. So by the time I left I didn't feel really busy. Yeah. So I was like, I could have just stayed at this job and kept going and like, felt like it was a break, you know what I mean? Yeah. But, but yeah. So hopefully by next year or six months from now will be a lot busier on average.
James: There we go. Nice thing about 14 hour days is 10 hour days then feel like a vacation once you like make that change.
Phoebe: Yeah, I remember like my Saturdays I would just sleep all Saturday cuz they were the only day that I had off, but it was Covid. Right. So what else was I gonna do?
James: Do exactly that or drink? I guess before we get into some questions, we're gonna talk today about, I think what were some of the big trends of this year in influencer marketing and what we kind of feel like is going to happen next year. Before we jump into that, like what, what interested you about this beat? Why, like, what kind of drew you to talking about this?
What interested you in the influencer marketing and social media beat?
Phoebe: Do you want the long answer or the short answer?
James: You know, we got all day.
Phoebe: Okay. Long answer. So I started my career at Social Media Today, which is under Industry Dive. I'd interned for them. They just wanted some like native content on their site. Essentially their website runs on a contributor model. And I essentially ended up in this sort of like full-time freelance role after the internship. So I really couched like my early journalism career in social media. I was on the social media desk at Business Insider right around the same time. So I felt like I got that part of the industry and it just seemed like where that was going was influencers, if that makes sense. Just like watching social media today is news content evolve and you know, watching all the platforms evolve, it just felt like that was a bigger and bigger part of social through the years. So then I started Marketing Brew and essentially it was just me.
Morning Brew had 30 employees that was covering the whole of the marketing and advertising industry. So I covered everything from, you know, programmatic to agencies, to CMOs to social media and influencers. And I think because I'd been so familiar with the social media side of things, that was where I felt most comfortable writing about. And so like the more stories I got to do on that beat, the more excited I got about it just due to the sheer comfort of like finally it's something I really know and I'm not, you know, just like learning as I'm building the wheel that I'm doing. And so once we hired a bunch of other reporters after we sold the company to Business Insider, we all got to kinda specify in our own beats. And my editor came to me and was like, you seem like you really like the social media and influencer stuff.
Do you wanna cover that? Like, and I was like, yeah, but how does one cover social media and influencer at the same time? Like there are reporters, you know, at other outlets like New York Times and the Wall Street Journal that just cover Facebook, let alone Meta. Right. So what we sort of came up with was that I would cover the social media world through the lens of the influencer marketing industry and I just dove in and they, they gave me a month at Morning Brew to just source up and meet people like yourself and influencer marketers and even creators, you know, from all over the place. And they just said, listen, you barely have to write for like all of January, just go out and meet people. And I just fell in love with it, to be honest. And I felt like I, I got good of it in some ways. I'd been doing it for years, but I was only covering influencers in, you know, an official capacity since about a year ago. So yeah, just it came naturally.
What didn't surprise you about influencer marketing in the last year?
James: Perfect. Well I feel like that that segues nicely into your first year of covering this space full time. What was not surprising to you that happened? Like, you know, the space is moving so quickly, it's changing so much. Like from where we were in January to where we are today is is quite different. What about that change do you feel like wasn't surprising? And then we'll go into like maybe what did surprise you?
Phoebe: I feel like the, what wasn't surprising is really sad, honestly. So there were these companies that just like from day one of starting to cover this beat in an official capacity, I was like, I need to know the people at these companies. I need to track what they're doing. Like that kind of thing. And they were the Glassdoor for influencer type companies. So the two main ones that I identified from the beginning were Clara and FYPM. Right. And you know, they, some of them were still kind of talking about getting funding or had recently gotten funding. I was just like, well how are these not like, you know, billion dollar companies already? If that makes sense. It didn't surprise me that at the beginning, obviously these companies have grown a lot and they did have a really big impact on the space. But I just think that like, it's not surprising that these companies that, in my opinion, had the biggest impact on the influencer marketing space over the past year aren't being celebrated in the way that they deserve to.
And I honestly think it's a female founder thing. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> as in, you know, this industry, the marketing industry as is, as our many industries are really, really sexist. Right. And it, it sucks because, you know, this huge percentage of creators are women and are identify as women and you know, these two female founded companies I just think should be getting every bit of press coverage and every bit of a claim for how influencer payment has changed over the past year. And I feel like I try and give that to them in my stories, but I just wish that like they were known on a global scale because I think that they changed so, so, so, so, so many people's lives and aren't getting the recognition they deserve. So that's on the not surprising, unfortunately, front.
James: As a F*** You Pay Me investor, I also agree that they specifically, should be much larger.
Phoebe: I actually didn't even remember that.
James: I completely agree. We were so interested in, in, in that business and in that space specifically because influencer pricing is so complex, you know, and it's so nuanced and personal in a way that like what you pay for an add on Morning Brew versus CNN someone's not gonna really take that personally. No. Right. It's just like, it is what it is. It's just business. But when it's you and when that price tag in some way like puts a value on the work that you do, it's like much more personal. There's a lot more emotion in it and there's so many creators being taken advantage of. You know, we see that a lot, especially on TikTok right now, where we're losing deals because we won't pay, we won't like take advantage of younger creators that don't understand what to charge. Cause we, we offer, you know, we make offers at fair market value and a lot of people will make an offer at of 25% of that and you know, some 22 year old kid will take it cuz they don't know what they should charge. So I think, yeah, I think these, those businesses are, are providing such a great service.
Phoebe: But don't you think, don't you think a year ago that younger creator was more likely to take that amount than they are now because of the FYPMs of the world? Definitely. Right. Like they were such a huge part of like just price standardization. Yeah. Even among, you know, I also think a year ago there were probably more companies that were offering a slight, you know mm-hmm. <Affirmative> like a fraction of what that creator should be getting paid. Or on the flip side, far more than that creator should be getting paid than they are now.
Like I think these companies created the first, at least in my opinion, price standardization in the industry. And I think that's huge because now that we have a more accurate understanding, you know, over the past year it's been like this huge jump in accuracy of what this is actually worth. I think that more companies can get involved with it and you know, that ends up being more people paying creators what they should be paid. Whether that's, you know, far more than they were being paid before, probably in the majority of cases or far less than they were being paid before. I'm like happy that something finally gave a lens of accuracy to the industry.
Will we see influencer pricing go up or down in 2023?
James: Absolutely. I think something, this is a total kind of right turn here, but you know, you talked about how there was like more companies that were willing to pay less. I think something that I think about, and this is more of like a next year thing, right?
As Meta and TikTok become more go after this space, more obviously, like both companies are getting kind of crushed right now. I mean, I think while who knows, like tick's results are probably a little harder to kind of get a sense of, but I know they claim they were gonna be 2 billion down on expectations this year on revenue. They've got hiring freezes. Obviously Matt has got layoffs, like iOS stuff is killing them. We talked about that in, in one of your pieces at at Morning Brew. The place that it makes sense for both of those brands to come in is in discovery, like in the discovery side of things and then like pay payments.
But something I talked to influencers about is that like Facebook coming in and commoditizing what you do is probably like a pretty bad thing. It's like for most influencers, they might be competing with a hundred other people right now for a deal, but if Meta launches this thing and now they're competing with a million people and it's a marketplace where you can just like pick a price and then like that drives prices down dramatically for influencers, which for Meta generally they probably would like influencer marketing to be cheaper because then like ROAS will be higher return on ad spend and they can sell more of those ads. So like generally, I actually think like the platforms getting involved in this space is like a nightmare for influencers.
Phoebe: I completely agree. I completely agree.
James: Probably good for brands to drive down per influencer pricing. They may not say that, but like ultimately they would like that, but they're probably the only force that can dramatically drive down influencer pricing.
Phoebe: I have to ask you, are you like bullish or bearish on these, you know, creative marketplaces from the platforms in general as to like how they'll do long term?
James: I'd say generally bearish. I mean Meta and TikTok, the people that I've talked to in those organizations have literally no idea what they're talking about when it comes to influencer marketing. They're like it, it's, it's actually shocking how little they understand it or the extent to which they will fully misunderstand the industry so they could make it so that you have to work with them. Like you have, if you are going to put a hashtag sponsored post on Instagram that you have to put the payment through meta.
Phoebe: Like, but can you just imagine them like trying to enforce that? Like they can't, they can barely enforce people having to actually use that hashtag in the first place. You know what I mean? Like, that would be such a nightmare.
James: If we think about the like billions of dollars of, of revenue they're losing on, on the advertising side. Maybe.
Phoebe: There's some incentive <laugh>.
James: Right? It is like, it is realistically the only way they can, because like the work we do on the like services side is like very people intensive, you know, like for us, you know, to run a a million dollars of spend takes, you know, two or three people. Yeah. You know, and Facebook's never gonna do that. They're not gonna go and hire 10,000 account people. Yeah. Build a like, enormous agency. They're not gonna like go buy, you know, Ogilvy or something. But that's what they would need to do to like support this work at a large scale. So as you think about like, scalable ways that they will enter the influencer space, ultimately their end goal is selling paid ads against the content that you create. That's like where they make their money, right? Cause from a margin perspective, if it, if I'm paying an influencer a thousand bucks, the most Facebook can take probably is 5% of that. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, but five by thousand dollars of advertising, they take all of it. So ultimately, like it actually is not a big money maker. And when people are like, oh, are you worried about Facebook? You know jumping in and doing this, it's just like, look, they, they make like 10 million a minute or something.
Phoebe: Yeah, exactly.
James: I think that's the actual figure.
Phoebe: I have no idea. But I think it is, it doesn't sound wrong to me at all.
James: <Laugh> ultimately, like a month of revenue for them is bigger than the entire influencer marketing space as far as like margin and what they could keep. It's like it's minuscule. So it actually just like, doesn't make an enormous amount of sense for them. But that is how they would get involved. TikTok is like much more, and I'm sure you've seen this in your reporting as well, like they're much more open to it. They've got a structure in place to even deal with companies like ours. We have like reps that work with us and it like Meta meta. We just like don't have anyone.
Influencer marketing on TikTok in 2023
Phoebe: At TikTok, there are people I can talk to for my stories. Meta is like kind of a ghost town. Yeah. You know, and they have had like, you know, people high up in their, their PR and communications department in the past that are really great at sitting down and having conversations like this with me. But in terms of like specialized people for each department, like TikTok has their press, people are so specialized for each department, right. Like there's somebody that would be able to, like there's probably one person at TikTok who would be able to sit down and have this conversation with us. That's like a press interfacing person. So like that's cool. I feel like meta is just a bigger animal, so they don't have things like that as much. But in general, I think that TikTok is so much more creator friendly. Just I'm sure you know that too, like from, you know, people that you've spoken with and creators themselves. But Yeah. In terms of
James: Like, I mean the flip side of that is like they may also ruin the entire industry.
Phoebe: Yeah. Flip side of that is, is that
James: <Laugh>, like they're, they're driving consumer behavior away from following a person towards following an algorithm which they control. They're suppressing sponsored posts in the algorithm. Like ultimately, like TikTok performance is like so variable and all over the place, it's like really hard to bet on. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> average viewership is 5%, which is an Insta story. So it's like, it, it actually is kind of hard to like pay for it in some, some ways because if you're getting 5% average viewership now you might get 400%. But like it's, it's so all over the place.
But I think the scarier thing for influencers is that training consumers to follow an algorithm and de-emphasizing a follower count means that like you exist to drive advertising revenue for TikTok and views in the platform and like, they're not gonna give you anything in return. Because like we've seen, I'm sure you've talked to so many creators like this that out build this big following, you know, and they'll be like, oh my God, I got 300,000 TikTok followers in three months and I've been on Instagram for 10 years and I have 10,000. This is such bull. And then like two months later they went from like 300,000 views of video to like a thousand.
Phoebe: Well it's diluted, right? Just due to the views on each individual piece of content due to the algorithm. Yeah. Yeah. So I feel like it's sort of, I don't know, apples and oranges a little bit, but like they do end up things can even out, if that makes sense. Yeah. I think that an interesting sort of like anecdote to that that brands are coming up with is the, they're hiring these internal TikTok creators. Like imagine being hired as a TikTok creator and then all of a sudden TikTok is no longer good for creators.
James: Like [TikTok has] been so smart about like making it so much easier to gain a following and that makes it like sticky. And I feel like it's like playing the lottery versus like building a business. Whereas like Instagram is a ******* slog. But if you could like build up a hundred thousand followers on Instagram, you can like change your life. A hundred thousand followers on TikTok can like change your life for a month. Yeah, exactly. But there's no guarantee that like, you know, that's actually gonna be a sustainable business for you. Because like, I think that as quickly as you can get like picked up and, and like risen on some tide, that tide can like flow out just as easily and you're left with no way to like access those followers
Phoebe: I think for individual creators. Yes. That's why it makes sense for an individual creator or brand or creator to join a brand or an agency. Right. Because you have some predictable income. Yeah. If that makes sense. Especially if TikTok is really your only thing. Yeah. but as any marketing professional knows, if you're gonna do a full-time influencer business, you should not just base it on one platform. Right.
Will TikTok be banned in 2023?
James: That's true. Hot take time. What is your like percentage probability that TikTok is in the app store in a year and not banned in the us?
Phoebe: Like 90%
James: You give it 90.
Phoebe: So first of all, you know, Biden's student debt package just keeps getting pushed and pushed and pushed. Right. That is so much more of a priority than TikTok getting banned. Like the government works slowly. So it's more the fact that you said like within, you know, 2023, will this be off the app store? That is why I said 90 versus like, you know, will this be off the app store in 10 years? Yeah. Basically the government works too slowly. I don't think this happens in the next year because barely anything happens within the American government within a year. So that's the first thing. And then the second thing is, yeah, China bans apps, but like in China bands a lot of things, right? That's true tech things in particular, but that's such a different country than the us Like isn't the entire, you know, the freedom ethos is really more of a right-leaning thing than a left-leaning thing in a lot of ways.
For instance, the left historically wants bigger government, the right wants smaller government. So I don't know, in my opinion, I I do think that the right might be less upset about it than the left. But honestly, because I think that the businesses that left-leaning people are involved in might be more pertinent to TikTok than people that Lean Right. Are involved in. Yeah. I just, I don't know. I mean like it totally could happen Of course. And like, I guess for me to have an educated opinion on this, I would really need to look at other apps that we do not allow in the US.
James: <Laugh>. Yeah. I don't have a lot of context.
Phoebe: I think also it came up. Yeah, I we might be sounding like idiots <laugh>.
James: Well it came up a few weeks ago when the AG was having a press conference and there was all this chatter that it was about banning TikTok mm-hmm. <Affirmative> because they had admitted that the Chinese government was using it to track specific private American citizens movements that they were like interested in spying on. And so as like a tool of espionage controlled by the Chinese government, I think that like there was this feeling that holy like on Twitter all day, it was like, holy, they're gonna, they're gonna ban TikTok today. That's like, that's the chatter.
Phoebe: It's so ironic it was people talking about that on Twitter now it ended up, cause we're waiting for that to call up.
James: It ended up like not obviously not happening. It was something to do with the phone company out there that that but was China related following up your point you made five minutes ago when I went on this tangent is that, you know, creators should be diversifying and making sure they're trying to like move that following across a number of different places.
Phoebe: What do you think about brands diversifying in the sense that, do we really wanna invest a whole salary and healthcare plan and everything into an employee that only does TikTok and create TikTok?
James: Yeah, I mean, I would say absolutely. You know, I think that like what is so interesting about the influencer space right now is brands are their like normal controls in the way that they can like tell their story in a scaled way. All that is disappearing. And you know, they, they are losing all of these tools that they had to be able to tell their story. You know, marketing seems to be turning into not like 10 years ago it was all about brand storytelling. You know, brands all had newspapers and magazines and they were doing short films and all that. Right? Now nobody cares. Like, you know, if you're like, who's following a brand, like following a brand on, on social is like a kind of like deranged thing to do. <Laugh> people are increasingly are, are hearing about this stuff from individuals. And so like for brands, you know, they need to, I think they finally have understood that like they can't take their advertising content and then just like post it to TikTok and expect they can't just like take their car commercial and put it on TikTok.
Phoebe: I hope you're right about that one.
James: You know, I think a single person's salary in healthcare to generate millions of, of views is like a pretty good deal for most brands given what they spend on advertising.
What should brands be concerned or excited about heading into 2023?
James: As we go into 2023, what should brands be concerned about or thinking about and what do you think they should be like really excited about in terms of influencer marketing?
Phoebe: I think they should be really excited about the fact that we're going into kind of our first Q1 in a while with an actual idea of how we price these things. Right. And if I'm in marketing at any company right now, especially within like the social or influencer side of marketing, I would be really excited about the fact that I have a better chance of convincing my CMO that what I do matters than ever. Because we've just like, you know, really narrowed in on what this is worth far more than we had a year ago. Yeah, I would be excited about that.
James: What should they be concerned about?
Phoebe: Oh, what should they be concerned about so much <laugh>, I mean the volatility of social platforms, obviously they should be diversifying. What do you think they should be concerned about?
James: Yeah. The media, you, you, you know, y'all included are going to will this recession into happening. Like they will not rest until they, they, they tell people
Phoebe: They are. You're so right. And I work in the media so I can guarantee that you're right.
James: They're like, they are going to will this recession into happening. And you know, brands have to be more careful with spend and I think that like influencer which like doesn't have the like ROAS that return on ad spend, that other like performance lower funnel. Yeah. Marketing has like, there's gonna be pressure on that.
So it's like interesting cuz like I am feeling from brands what you're talking about with excitement. Like, we are getting so much more CMO engagement than we ever have. You know, I talked to CMO of a $40 billion company the other day that was moving their entire TV budget to influencer.
Phoebe: Can you please tell me that that was the CMO of Radio Shack, who I just found out is 20 years old when I saw him on the Forbes list today. <Laugh>,
James: My god, I put them on the Forbes. That's funny.
Increased scrutiny for influencer performance in 2023
James: That excitement exists, you know, but like with it, you know, we are exiting this world where brands are spending $250K or $500,000 a year and entering when they're spending five, 10, 15 million a year. And so there's so much more scrutiny, there's so much more like expectation about what those dollars are going to get you. And so it's like this interesting kind of dichotomy where like there is unprecedented excitement and unprecedented scrutiny add that into like economic headwinds and pressure on ad spend in general. And I think most marketing professionals, less like courageous CMOs or marketing directors are gonna just go for higher ros mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, you know, tried and true performance marketing and say like, oh, this is, this is something we do when things are going really well and things aren't going really well right now. So we're not gonna do that.
And I think that's like the concern for influencers as well going into next year is that like the, in the same way that there is like this crackdown right now on employees, right? There's this feeling that like, employees have gotten entitled and you know, they've gotten like so used to these perks and like all the tech companies are kind of pulling all of that stuff out. I'm not saying this about my employees you know, y'all are watching. I don't think any of you are entitled. I think we're gonna see the same with influencers. I think some influencers have been dialing it in, you know, have been like not putting a lot of effort into this content. They've gotten used to, you know, spending 10 minutes on a post and making 10 grand on it and, and like not caring about the performance. Not all of them, but like, I think those days will be gone in the same way that like the jokes about the, like, you know, product managers at like meta like those days are probably gone. Yeah. Like, so are the days of like a $10,000 check and, and there's no real expectation that it worked.
Phoebe: So I wrote a story at some point over the past year about a certain platform and I had to interview creators for it and about, you know, kind of what they think of influencer marketing on this platform. And I so rarely, not rarely, but I'd say like, you know, nine out of 10 conversations that I have for my job as a journalist covering this space are with people like you, people working at influencer marketing agencies or in-house for a brand as influencer marketers. And like one of those tens conversations is with an influencer. So like, it's rare that I get that perspective just because I'm writing for a marketing audience. Right. But I had to interview all these influencers to the story and I remember asking one of them, okay, how many followers do you have on this platform? And this influencer was wrapped by an agency, and the agency, you know, was really one of my main sources for this story.
But they were like, oh, you know, you should talk to some of the creators that were actually repping to. And you know, my editor there wanted that. So I talked to the agency, they're super, super knowledgeable about all of this. All of their talent management reps are, you know, wonderful. I was like, how many followers do you have on the platform just for some context for the story? And she didn't even know how to find how many followers she had on the platform. So the idea that perhaps as pricing gets more standardized and as the economy shifts that people would have to stop phoning it in that way actually really excites me for the most selfish of reasons. <Laugh> because this was a person that's making some sort of an income off of this. Right? I don't can't, I'm not gonna say or not say whether they were doing it full time, but they're making some sort of money off of this.
And like the fact that you don't know how many followers you have on a platform that you, an agency that you're paying Right. To represent you for. Like, I would love it if that was no longer the case. I don't know, I don't wanna make it sound like influencers need to work harder because influencers work very, very, very hard and influencing and being an influencer or creator is feminized labor. And I think that the idea that they don't work hard mm-hmm. <Affirmative> comes from a really feminist and anti emin woman stance. But I, I'd like for them to know about all the followers they have.
Increased competition for influencers in 2023
James: I think it's, I I think it's more of just like a natural market force as well of, of like more competition. Like I started this business 10 years ago, you know, we were like the first platform of its kind and there were probably 200 people in the world doing this and making any money whatsoever in 2012.
Phoebe: And you could probably name all of them as could I.
James: Right? Yeah. And so now there are, you know, what, 10 million people doing this maybe more. There's probably, I don't know, at least a million people making like decent money doing this as, as their career. And so like, there's more competition. I mean, we didn't have to compete with anyone 10 years ago. Nobody else did it, you know? And now every day someone texts me, oh, have you heard of this business? I'm like, no, I haven't heard of them <laugh>. I'm like, but yeah, that means you have to try. Like, you have to try harder. And I think that like ultimately that's gonna be good for brands and for influencers that like there is more pressure. Like, and again, some of it is from, from the economics and, and from what's happening in the markets. But some of it is just that like, this is becoming a bigger part of, of what brands are doing. Our vision is in the next five to 10 years, this is the dominant form of advertising in the world. There's, this is where brands are spending the most money, the most time, most resources. We believe that that is going to happen and that's gonna come with like a lot more scrutiny.
Phoebe: Yeah. It's honestly, I mean it's a feminized labor issue. And I think that people, if this was a male dominated industry, everybody would be saying this is gonna be the dominant form of advertising in the next five or 10 years. But there's something about the number of women that, you know, make up the space that is making people, I think, blinded to a really obvious reality, right? That this is an important part of the marketing industry and that I really think it's here to stay. I talk to people like you, I talk to people like these women at the agency called the Motherhood. They started just repping like mommy bloggers, you know mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, I think more than 10 years ago. And they're still here, they're still kicking. So like the people that have been in this industry for a decade or more know this isn't going anywhere. And I think that the rest of the marketing industry as well as the world at large would know that if it was a male dominated industry.
James: And look, that's also why CMOs generally like who, who trend towards being white men have not been interested in this space. I mean, you know, we've put probably a hundred million into influencers pockets, which means we've made, you know, quite a bit more than that. I've had like probably five CMO conversations in 10 years. You're
Phoebe: You're kidding me.
James: Yeah, they just like, don't, they just like, don't care. They don't get, I think it is seen as like, and certainly this was true of investors, that it was seen as like a woman's thing and that they were just like, I don't get it. I'm not, it's a fad. It's like not gonna really be a thing. And I think on the CMO side, it was like, I can't win awards for this. And I, there just really hasn't been much interest in it. Like in, which is kind of wild.
Phoebe: The professionalization of this space. I think in either 2021 or 2020s end of year recap that I wrote for Marketing Brew, I think I said that I, I've basically written about this in a recap of industry trends somewhere that the professionalization of influencers and influencer marketing was going to be a trend. And I think that there's a lot of different organizations that we can thank for that. One of them is the American Influencer Council. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> you know, the fact that we have like a real trade organization for this industry is important, right? So Yes, absolutely. Everything that you're saying is, is so, so correct. As CMOs start to trend younger, I think there will be more respect for this regardless of gender, especially as more CMOs are creators themselves. Like you look at Katie Welch from Rare Beauty who is a creator, right? And that has helped her role as CMO in my opinion, so much, right? Because people can really engage with her and engage with the brand via her on social media. So yeah, I'm hoping
James: We launched that brand with her.
Phoebe: Oh my God, really? Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, what? Yeah. I genuinely didn't know this, I promise <laugh>. She's just great and has has, you know, a bit of Twitter whatever social media follower of mine. So yeah.
Difficult future for CMOs
James: She's great. Part of the fallout from the public markets over the last nine months is we're gonna see a lot of CMOs lose their jobs in the next six months. And I think that like for the first time in a while, we're gonna start to see, what do they call me? A geriatric millennial? Geriatric millennials such as myself start to step into more of those leadership roles as like the like mid fifties to like seventies. Yeah. Like people probably lose their job cause like somebody has to get fired. Like ultimately if your stock is down like 70% in a year, like people have to get fired. There's really like nothing you
Phoebe: Can, you really think that that's gonna be, are we calling that as a trend for 2023? CMOs losing their jobs?
James: I think we're gonna see a lot of CMOs lose their jobs. I mean this is again like, like Meta gained $12 billion in market cap the day they did those layoffs. Like the market wants to know that you are serious about making changes when things aren't going well. So your fault or not, like part of the reason C-Suite people make so much money is that like, when **** goes wrong, somebody has to get fired and it's gonna be the CMO, the CEO, those are probably like the two most likely people to get fired because like you just have to say to the market like, we are changing direction. We see that this is a problem as you're company. Yeah. If you're a public company and, and even, you know if you're private I think that like people will be looking to like make a change and like understanding like the world is changing.
What do brands and influencers not understand about each other?
James: You know, we started the business to really support influencers and to kind of give people this opportunity to do something creative and interesting with their lives and make money on it. And I think you probably have that perspective as well of like what this is like for influencers and what it's like for brands. So like what do you think those two groups misunderstand about each other? Like what, what do brands not get about influencers or what do they often get wrong and what do the influencers kind of generally not understand about brands?
Phoebe: I think this is changing is what I'll say, what I'm about to say is currently changing, but historically brands is not understood that influencers are human beings. Because I think, correct me if I'm wrong, I'm sure you guys all have some knowledge of the marketing industry, but I think that influencer marketing is the first marketing channel that where the channel is a person, you know, where the channel isn't just something that you can plug and play, if that makes sense. So I did the story about influencers who are, who are couples, right? Who operate their business business as a couple about what happens to their brand deals when they break up. So it was like, what happens when the influencer couple breaks up? What's up with the brand deals? Right? And a lot of the people that I talked to for that story were essentially like, yeah, you know, we're an influencer marketing agency that is used to this type of thing, or we're an influencer talent agency that might specialize in couples or like, you know, reality dating show stars if you will, that specializes in this.
And so we're used to influencers breaking up and having to notify the brands about joint deals that they've done and, and that kind of thing. And they were basically like, you know, brands don't understand or are beginning to understand now, but it's very new that influencers are people and they do things like die and get sick and pet influencers die. Right. and break up and have a death in the family. Right. And, you know, all these like have a baby enough to go on maternity leave like they are living specimens, but do all the things, but living specimens do such as dying, give birth and grieve. Right. and I think that if brands could understand that more rather than saying, you know, my TV ad can't run, not because this network doesn't exist anymore, but because this person just had a baby. Right.
I think everybody would be better off in the equation and by better off, I, I like don't even mean financially better off. I mean that brands would like just take their like heart rate down a lot and their stress level down a lot by saying like, this is what we get into by dealing with influencers, but it's worth it monetarily. Like obviously it's worth it monetarily to people like us who know about the industry and have seen the results. So that's what I think brands don't understand about influencers, but influencers don't understand about brands.
Like, like I said, I would say that nine out of 10 of my conversations are more brand or agency or talent manager focused than they are influencer focused. But on, on the rare occasion that you know, I get to speak with influencers, I think influencers could feel a little bit more empowered to run their businesses if they really understood that what they're doing is a part of that brand's bottom line. And you are a player in this business, right? You're not just collecting a paycheck, you know, like you are an important facet of this organization. Yeah.
James: And it like, it actually ties in so nicely with the like, human side as well because brands do need to understand that. Like it's, it's like an emotionally taxing thing to to even to like the day you're posting, right? If you're like feeling down or like something's happened in your life and you have to like go on stories and talk about this product you know, that you like apparently love and, and then you've gotta like be on there to like respond to dms and comments. Like, that stuff is like not easy emotionally. No, it's really not. You have to be in that space. And again, the flip side is that like yeah, I think sometimes influencers don't get that. Like if the post is supposed to go live Tuesday because the product is launching like Thursday actually doesn't work. Yes. Right. That like, you are part of this like bigger machine that doesn't exist on like your whims and desires necessarily. And, and that like, while we ask brands to like have some grace and understanding of influencers, it's, I think it's like we were really talking about is also partnership, you know, about like being honest and understanding like that as an influencer takes that deal. You have a responsibility and you are part of this like bigger machine and on the brand side that like this is Yes. A form of media. Yeah. Yeah. But also a, a like breathing form of media that is a person.
Phoebe: And you know, what I feel like could be an interesting solution for that is just like people going out to dinner. You know what I mean? Like, I think that so much of the influencer marketing industry began to mature during covid and during lockdown. I just feel like these people are so rarely meeting each other in person unless it's like a huge ambassadorship type deal. And I actually think that these people just like sitting down over food or wine or whatever and talking would help a lot.
James: I agree. Let's do it. Yeah. Let's just like, we'll get 'em all together. We'll
Phoebe: We'll do a conference. Absolutely. That sounds great.