Social influencers - is there really no escape?

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 12 October 2015
AdNews online editor, Pippa Chambers.

The banner ad, that trusty slither of a box we have come to know - maybe not love - but know well. There's no hiding it, it's upfront and we know what it wants – clicks.

We also know how to avoid it.

After all it's been through over the past 20+ years, I almost had a kind of endearment towards it, balanced with a twinge of pity that after all this time, it's never quite won the extreme makeover treatment and it's death is harked on about so frequently that it can't really be good for morale.

So, with the rise of adblocking comes the demise of many such pop-up banners and surprising ad formats – like those irksome pop-up ads in image galleries that publishers are now dabbling with, but what's to come in its place and how can we circumnavigate such restraints?

Enter the social influencer. Set to be the industry's “golden child”, according to radio presenter and social startup founder, Jules Lund. It's not just media-lover Lund touting influencer marketing as a way to get brands and marketers to look at integrating their marketing messages into content that can't be blocked.

YouTube vloggers and countless other platforms are channelling stars to spruik products.

While it's a good re-route for advertisers and the industry, as consumers, do we really want brands pumping out content in clandestine methods?

Just because you like or follow someone doesn't mean they then influence you in other ways. I follow Ricky Gervais on Twitter for his comedic lines, not because I give a hoot who he banks with or how good he looks in his new Wrangler jeans.

Can I trust the Sydney food blogger (who has more than 5,000 followers – a prerequisite for making onto Lund's books), who cooks with Maltesers because he likes them and the texture works, as opposed to because it's making a sweet ROI for him and Mars?

Do I want The Oatmeal's Matthew Inman to start incorporating Whiskas into his cat sketches? Where is the consumer choice when it comes to being 'influenced' by people we follow?

I worry about the clouding of judgement and the arrival of fluff, padding and spruik that would wheedle in to influencer marketing.

Last time I looked, I don't have to click on that banner ad or that flashing MREC.

With the lines between content and advertising ever blurring, I am concerned for the consumer.

There may not be a way to ‘block’ branded influencer messages yet, but as fast as we can find new pathways to the consumer, some upstart will find a way to make money blocking it.

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