On Social Media: Advertisers’ Need to Listen to Influencers
April 2023, volume 47, No 4

The internet has taken over unexpectedly and unwelcomed by many, but it’s here to stay. The pandemic has demonstrated how easy it is to access entertainment online, even when the world is shut down. However, the advertising industry seems stuck in a one-size-fits-all approach. While every brand has its appeal, they need to understand that every creator has their own appeal too. In the creator-verse, makers have created their own parallel universe of content, from everyday observational comedy to political satire to pranks.

On the internet, the audience choose what they want to consume, propagate, and buy, unlike in TV commercials, where the brand chooses to serve a message that suits them. For instance, when a brand approaches a creator on Instagram to promote a haircare product, the creator needs to build a story that the audience will buy, which, in turn, will sell the product. However, in the internet world, feudalizing human thoughts is impossible, as the audience can choose not to consume what’s on-screen with an unfollow button. Unlike television, which cannot change ads, the internet can change both channels and ads, depending on captivating the audience through storytelling that will appeal to a specific section.

Brands can no longer impose their desired message in just one particular way they choose. An example would be that merely singing ‘Washing powder Nirma ke jhag ne jadoo kar dia’ will not work with a creator who works with political satire. Instead, they have to build a story where perhaps they will make characters out of the dirt and the detergent, give it a subtle political or caricature-ish angle, and deliver the use of the product as something that possibly perpetuates integrity. However, the political angle might not be something that the brand prefers.

Brands need to understand that there’s a reason why they want ads on a creator’s page. A satirist cannot sell biscuits via a ‘dare challenge’ unless the dare is satire itself, and a fashion creator cannot sell AirPods unless it comes from a fashion perspective. In an era where we are moving towards cost per view on each ad, finding common ground is crucial. Both, the brand and the creator want the same thing—the product to sell and the video to work. Unfortunately, solutioning is an aspect that brands overlook when working with creators.

If neither the video works nor the product sells, no one benefits, and Instagram ads are not cheap investment. The algorithm also works against paid partnerships, bringing down their reach, particularly on Instagram. Every creator’s handle is like a small apartment, where every item is handpicked as per their thought process. Brands need to be responsible for who they associate with, as cancel culture is real, and nobody is safe. A recent example is the unwillingness of people to wear Balenciaga. However, this remains a topic for another discussion. For now, we must move towards an ad world where brands sell, and creators can help with the same.

An excellent example of this is the partnership between TikTok and Ocean Spray. The brand worked with a creator who had created a viral video of himself skateboarding while drinking Ocean Spray. They created a campaign that involved other creators and went on to become one of the most successful campaigns on TikTok.

In conclusion, the creator-verse is a new frontier for brands, and they must adapt to succeed. They need to understand that every creator has their own unique style and work with them to create content that resonates with their audience. They must also be authentic, tell compelling stories, and be willing to take risks. By doing so, they can succeed in the creator-verse and reach a new generation of consumers.

Prapti Elizabeth is a satirist and a digital marketing expert.