The rise of social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok has led to a gold rush in influencer marketing over the last decade, with everyone from dental hygiene brands to luxury fashion labels paying thousands to land their products on the right feed.
Today, the global value of the creator economy is estimated to be worth $100 billion – more than double what it was in 2019. Brands like Gymshark became overnight success stories thanks in large part to their work with influencers. And as the cost of digital advertising has increased and its impact waned, partly due to Apple’s privacy updates, even more brands have doubled down on influencer marketing as a primary channel hoping to generate greater ROI.
The industry’s rapid rise hasn’t been without its controversies, however. In 2018, ASA rules were introduced meaning influencers had to signpost when they were posting an ad on social media. This simple change turned out to be a catalyst for exposing the reality of influencer marketing, and eroding trust between creators and their communities. A 2019 BBC undercover documentary exposed this further, when it showed Lauren Goodger of TOWIE fame eagerly agree to a partnership with a fake poisonous cyanide diet drink without trying it. “Half these posts you see that people do, they’re not even trying them half the time,” she said.