Gray Matters: social influencers, travel incentives, Brexit and evaluations

Under the Influence

Having spent the past week talking to PR people about changes to their industry for an upcoming feature in NZ Marketing, it was timely to read Jihee Junn’s feature in The Spinoff, Which social media influencer is the most (and least) influential of them all?

Brand marketers are struggling to come to terms with the true value of attaching their brands to social media celebs and are having difficulty attaching a value to “likes” on the likes of an Instagram post.

Junn quotes a “well-known specialist agency”, which claims “$10,000 will buy you anywhere from seven to 20 posts from as many as 14 paid influencers”. Some of these key influencers include, director and actor Taika Waititi, pole vaulter Eliza McCartney and new mother and Black Stick Gemma McCaw.

There’s a handy Top 36 List featured in The Spinoff article for those who already have their chequebooks out.

On the same day The Spinoff published Junn’s article, AdAge offered a How to Succeed with Influencers: Brand Playbook, billed as “Tips for selecting, overseeing and rooting out fake influencers”. In Jack Neff’s piece the most interesting highlight for me was the attitude of the big brand players, Unilever and Proctor & Gamble. These two branding giants are, “now paying influencers based on engagements rather than followers”. Unilever chief marketing and communications officer Keith Weed is quoted as believing about 40 percent of all marketers have gone this route.

Neff writes: “Only two or three years ago, PR departments and agencies tended to oversee brands’ influencer marketing strategies. Now, such marketing is a big enough piece of the mix that general brand teams, creative agencies, media shops and shopper marketing experts all get involved.”

The influencer landscape can be a minefield of confusion and it’s often best to stick to your sector stalwarts. Feedspot, for example, published it’s latest update of Top 60 New Zealand Lifestyle and Fashion Blogs And Websites To Follow in 2019, and it’s comforting to see familiar names like Fashion Quarterly and Stuff’s Life & Style News near the top of the list.

There is an ever-growing pack of “Social Media Specialists” willing to help loosen the purse-strings of marketing budgets — SocialSugar, The Social Club New Zealand, to name a couple — but it’s probably best for the uninitiated to consider taking Michael Carney’s written Netmarketing courses, or something like the Sponsokit workshops which covers two important questions for marketers, namely, how to track the return on investment of influencer marketing campaigns and why some content performs better than others. The workshop is completely free to attend and can be attended remotely via Google Hangouts.

Of course, the influencer market could all turn to custard, with the news that: “NZ social media influencers risk big fines,” that is according to a lawyer as reported by NZ Herald this week. However, as the report states, “the worst a Kiwi influencer faces is a strongly worded ticking-off from the Advertising Standards Authority if they fail to disclose a post is paid for with cash or freebie product”.

Resurrections

There’s nothing more satisfying for an old industry observer than to see a great creative talent land on his feet and return to the centre of Auckland’s creative hub. So it was with pleasure I read that former FCB stalwart James Mok has been appointed at VMLY&R as managing director.

The puzzle is not that Mok has landed on his feet but more, “what the hell happened at FCB in 2018?” From 2006 to 2014, FCB grew to take up a dominant position in the local ad scene under the leadership of Bryan Crawford, and that success rolled on under Brian van den Hurk’s leadership.

It seems the rot set in with the appointment of Dan Martin as CEO in June 2016. From then there was a string of senior staff departures, including Fleur Head and Kamran Kazalbash, formerly managing director and general manager of retail respectively, and Rufus Chuter, managing director of FCB Media. Mok’s departure after 14 years as FCB’s creative head was the final, if not fatal blow.

Earlier this month FCB New Zealand confirmed the appointment of Paul Shale to the position of CEO, and last week Toby Sellers was confirmed as managing director.

Shale is an interesting appointment to say the least. After 12 years of business, Consortium, the agency founded by Shale, closed its doors in mid-2015. When contacted by StopPress at the time, Shale declined to comment, saying that, “the team at Consortium did not speak to media about its business or clients during its tenure and that it would be “ironic to start now”.

Since 2015, Shale has been CEO at Roadtrippers Australasia, the GPS-tourism mar-tech division of US corporate TH2.

With all the turmoil of the past couple of years, it’s difficult to see the creative highs of Pak’nSave’s Stickman or Mitre 10’s Sandpit (both created under Mok’s leadership) coming out of FCB any time soon. But then there are still many people who believe that resurrections are real.

Travel Incentives

Having been the beneficiary of travel incentives as part of a bonus and sales commission scheme, I was concerned at the attitude taken to Incentives such as overseas trips in the “damning new report into the New Zealand life insurance industry”. The attitude taken by the Financial Markets Authority (FMA) seems at odds with one of the basic precepts of a capitalist system. But then maybe New Zealand’s drift into socialism has thrown a spanner in the works for sales incentives.

“Sales executives are always looking for ingenious ways to motivate their teams,” says the Harvard Business Review advisory Motivating Salespeople: What Really Works. Studies show that group sales incentives with team prizes that reward the whole team with say an overseas trip, is better in motivating laggards (those who were not reaching their sales targets) because of the social pressure involved.

Sales incentives are devised to beat the competition NOT as the FMA would have it at the expense of the customer.

In the Newshub report, Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi says Cabinet agreed to get rid of sales incentives. “Incentives such as overseas trips and loaded up-front commissions can cause a conflict for the salesperson,” he says.

This is what happens when people who have never run a business are tasked with regulating it. Travel incentives are an effective means of driving employee motivation and is good for business. To take away this tool from Insurance companies would see them reduced to the inefficiencies we see from unmotivated government departments.

Brexit Bonus

With The Guardian predicting the UK will plunge into its first advertising recession in a decade in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the question for local agencies is whether this will afford them an opportunity to poach some top-class creative talent.

Mark Sweney writes: “If the UK leaves without a deal, spending will decline by three percent this year to £22.54bn, the first annual recession since 2009 when the sector plunged by 13 percent. This means that £1.36bn in advertising and marketing spend will disappear from the market.”

As early as 15 months ago, the UK Ad Association was running a campaign to keep overseas talent in the UK post-Brexit. Perhaps the time has come for New Zealand to launch a similar campaign to attract overseas talent to this country at a time when that talent is feeling most vulnerable. Our local Commercial Communications Council could do worse than consider this opportunity.

You only have to look around at some of the best creative talent in New Zealand over the past couple of decades to realise there has been a great influence from imported talent from London.

In an interview with Drum, Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association (UK) said: “We want all of our brand owners, media companies, production companies, agencies, and everybody whose business depends on international talent, to take it on. We hope for a big industry push to make sure that our voice is heard.”

Translate that to the New Zealand advertising environment and a similar call could be made by the Commercial Communications Council.

Evaluating your Agency

For those client’s who are struggling to evaluate their current agency, there’s a good guide from Kurt Kaufer at Forbes, Good Is The Killer Of Great: Evaluating Your Agency Partners.

Kaufer gives a checklist of 10 distinguishing characteristics to look for when evaluating an agency partner and concludes: “As the media and advertising ecosystem continues to evolve at a rapid pace, it will be important for clients to ensure they choose greatness versus choosing “just good enough” to ensure the long-term vitality of your business.”

Afterthought

 “In 2015, in the US, the Association of National Advertisers alleged that, the holding companies were paid illegally and clandestinely by media owners in order to skew media buys their way.” Are any New Zealand media owners making any clandestine payments today to skew media buys their way?

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