I’ve recently considered changing my name to Sophie #AD Milner. Has a ring to it, don’t you think? Only joking. Of course. But it feels pretty accurate. For most of December, and the best part of November, I basically felt like a walking advert. I may as well have been one of those people who walks around with an A-frame billboard, just changing the brand/ company I promote by the day. And truthfully I feel a little torn – part of me feels guilty about it, but another part of me feels hugely proud and happy that I’m creating content with brands that I really really love, and earning a living doing so.
Influencer marketing is absolutely booming. In 2017 there was around 12.9 million brand-sponsored Instagram posts that were disclosed with #spon #ad or #sponsored – and it’s estimated to almost double next year to 24.2 million. And think of those that aren’t disclosed or taken into account… More and more companies are are allocating budget to projects as opposed to more traditional methods of advertising, influencer marketing is a relatively cheap and effective win.
A question that definitely needs to be asked is why I feel guilty about posting so many ads. Seriously, y tho? There’s a sentiment that chimes across the influencer world that if you’re not proud to put #ad on a piece of sponsored work than you shouldn’t accept the campaign in the first place. And quite frankly, I couldn’t agree more. But it’s absolutely not the reason why I feel guilty, as I do feel proud. It’s more I feel guilty about being judged over it by others – and I really hope that’s not the case. I’m trying less to care what others think, but when you’re a blogger, what other people think about you is a lot to do with your job.
Making Instagram ads successful isn’t always easy – you’re almost coming up with a whole miniature advertising campaign for your own personal platform whilst trying to tick the boxes of what the brand wants. A lot of people assume you simply get paid to take a photo of yourself wearing or holding a product and to say good things about it #sellsellsell – but the most successful ones have to be far more strategic. Sometimes you’re given full creative freedom – and you don’t even have to send the image for sign off by the brand. On other occasions, in longstanding collabs, I’ve had to not only pitch every idea for what my sponsored Instagram post would be, but also send images to illustrate exactly what I was going to do to then get feedback from the brand. And that’s before I’d even created the content!
More than anything, I worry that the serious increase in influencer marketing across Instagram is beginning to potentially devalue us, and strip us of authenticity in the eyes of others. With the rise of influencer marketing and the sheer volume of ads appearing – not to mention the promoted sponsored ads from businesses popping up on the feed – is Instagram turning into one big advertorial?
Personally, I’m totally in favour of people taking as many campaigns as they can – so long as it follows the unwritten golden rule: keep it true and authentic to your own personal brand. The problem that we might end up facing, more than anything, is not necessarily the sheer volume of ads diluting our worth and influence, but when those with large audiences take on campaigns and projects promoting products and brands that seem so fake and disingenuous, that it’ll tar us all with the same brush and more and more followers will unite in a collective eye-roll against us. Just look at the jokes about Love Island contestants – how even the ones who get dumped from the Island within days are going to be straight on the gram promoting protein shakes and tooth whitener. It’s a running joke at them and we begin to get bundled into the same category as them as a #influencer.
But good news is their lack of authenticity does show and doesn’t always affect us, as 30% of people in one survey said they’re more likely to buy a product recommended by a non-celebrity blogger (I use the term celebrity very loosely when talking about Love Island contestants ofc – no hate, I LOVE the show so so very much please come back to my television soon) In the same survey, 70% said that recommendations from friends informs their purchases, and that only 3% would make a purchase based on a celebrity endorsement. What we do, by sharing our personality and connecting with our audiences essentially bridges that gap between celebrity and friend, so the power we do have and the authenticity behind it shouldn’t be taken for granted.
What I’m now wondering is whether Instagram crack the whip somehow. So many influencers have said how posts that disclose their sponsorship using a #ad tend to perform worse than using ‘AD’ or ‘ad’ – suggesting, of course what we’ve all thought for so long, that the algorithm de-prioritises paid work, and in a way punishing those using the platform to make a living in such a way. Either way, Instagram ads aren’t going away anytime soon, and I know that some of mine happen to be my most strongest images on my feed.
What are your thoughts on all of it? Are we on #ad overload?
Photography by Zoe Griffin