Wavemaker's Shivani Maharaj on the 'meteoric' rise of influencers

By Ruby Derrick | 23 August 2023

Australia has much to learn when it comes to influencer marketing, says Shivani Maharaj, chief content and partnerships officer at Wavemaker. 

Maharaj and the team at Wavemaker were the winners of the Best Beauty and Wellness Campaign for Maybelline’s Get Ready With Meat the 2022 AiMCO Awards.  

The AiMCO Awards celebrate the best work in influencer marketing, with entries now open for the 2023 awards. 

Maharaj and the media agency are seeing a "meteoric rise" in the use of influencers as part of the marketing media mix. 

“From 2016 to 2022, the size of influencer marketing has increased from $1.7BN to $16.4BN,” she said.  

“90% of marketers believe influencer marketing to be an effective form of marketing and 61% of consumers trust influencer recommendations, compared to 38% who trust brand-led content.” 

Agencies can adapt this as a key stream of work, notes Maharaj, who says they need to be honest first and foremost.  

“Influencer and creator marketing needs to be planned just like any other media channel is, with smarts and rigour. 

“At GroupM, we have recently acquired GOAT, one of the world’s leading influencer agencies and our investment into technology in this space is going to benefit all our clients.”  

There are a lot of myths around influencer marketing, with a lot of brands still treating it like a PR channel where you can gift things to creators and influencers and expect things back for free (ie. free social media posts), said Maharaj. 

“The industry has moved far beyond that. Creators and influencers need to get paid for what they do. This is their livelihood. Those days are over.” 

From Wavemaker's point of view, this is how it views influencer and creator marketing: 

Shivani X influencer marketing

For brands embracing creators, Australia is behind the rest of the world when it comes to influencer and creator marketing, said Maharaj. 

I have recently come back from Cannes Lions as a juror in the social & influencer category and the work happening on the global stage is far ahead of where we are at here,” she said. 

Brands are embracing creators and influencers in many more ways from using them in live streams to drive ecommerce (or what we call icommerce); working with them from a product development POV; using them as creative for wider brand comms across mass media channels; to having them set up in affiliate models, said Maharaj. 

What I also started to see is brands working with AI influencers ad brand ambassadors (there are now 200 AI Influencers in the world). 

For Maharaj, she feels that Australia has much opportunity to learn from the world. 

“But it still feels like we have advertisers and brands still questioning the role they play and why they should use them as a channel in their marketing mix,” she said.  

“Let me say it here, every brand in each category should be working in this space as it’s the way consumers are connecting with brands today.” 

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