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 the industry now worth almost $14 billion globally. It’s also proving to be an attractive proposition for brands of all shapes and sizes, who are coming round to the idea that an influencer with an iPhone can be just as impactful as a big-budget TV ad.
Influencer marketing hasn’t been without its critics, however, who argue that the trend-based nature of social platforms means that their content tends to blur into a generic sea of sameness. While Instagram account Influencers in the Wild has earned legions of fans for capturing amusing but harmless moments of influencing in its rawest form, Netflix’s Fyre Festival documentary is just one example of the darker side of the industry, demonstrating just how bad things can turn out when influencers are paid to promote a product that fails to live up to the hype.
Love it or hate it, influencer marketing has firmly established itself as part of the modern advertising landscape, so much so that earlier this year UK parliament launched a public inquiry into ‘influencer culture’, calling for experts who could inform confused MPs and civil servants what it is, exactly, that influencers do.
The rise of the influencer culture also raises the question of where it leaves the rest of the creative industries. “I think in terms of how it has changed and affected the creative industries is through efficiencies,” says Jamie Hambleton, director of sales and partnerships at influencer-focused media company Studio71 UK. “Certainly through a Covid lens, there’s no denying that influencers more than ever over the last two years have been a way to overcome those unique challenges. They are obviously creatives at their very core and they understand how to shoot and edit and tell stories.”