Influencer marketing is now a billion dollar industry, with everyone from dental hygiene brands to luxury fashion labels paying thousands of pounds to land their products on the right feed. But as the market has grown, it seems we’ve all become a little tired of seeing #ad.
In October last year, 24-year-old blogger Scarlett Dixon published a paid-for post in partnership with Listerine mouthwash. Alongside the caption, “The best of days start with a smile and positive thoughts. And pancakes,” she posted an image of herself sipping a cup of tea in bed while surrounded by heart-shaped balloons – a photograph that allegedly offered a glimpse into her morning routine.
The post was marked as an ad, but this didn’t stop Dixon receiving online abuse for what was clearly a staged photoshoot. In a tweet that received more than 100,000 likes, one Twitter user from Cardiff shared it along with the message: “Fuck off is this anybody’s normal morning.”
As well as exposing the nasty side of social media (Dixon says she received hundreds of death threats), the post – and the reaction to it – highlighted everything that has gone wrong with influencer marketing. Influencers used to be seen as authentic – and we expected their posts to reflect real life. Now, our feeds have become flooded with aspirational images from wellness bloggers and fitness coaches and sun-kissed travellers promoting products and brands in exchange for cash. The lines between what’s real and what’s not, what’s paid for and what isn’t, have become increasingly blurred, and it seems consumers are no longer buying it.