Brand Strategy Media Influencer Marketing

Influencers are now asking to be in our brand ad. And we should listen


By Kerry Anderson, Client partner

April 4, 2024 | 7 min read

What if influencer marketing wasn’t an 'add-on’ dumped upon the intern? Havas Red’s Kerry Anderson visualizes how the talent could take center stage.

Pepsi Khaby Lame

From the now infamous Fyre Festival to the hordes of influencers jetting off to Dubai during Covid, influencer marketing has been the topic of plenty of controversy over the years. But for everything that went wrong, there’s also plenty that’s gone right.

Reflecting the growth and maturation of the sector, influencers and social media platforms took center stage at many of the key marketing festivals last year, including Cannes Lions. Influence has arrived in the marketing mix as its own specialist channel, and it’s finally being taken seriously by brands and agencies alike. Or at least the smart ones.

In fact, the 2024 Super Bowl LVIII, which is usually the pinnacle of ad spend for the year, saw some big hitters spend their cash on big influencer partnerships instead. Having to stump up $7m for a 30-second ad spot alone to reach 115m viewers, you can begin to see why. Instead, Pepsi, for example, decided to put its trust in Khaby Lame, an influencer boasting 161 million followers on TikTok alone, with plenty more millions across his other platforms. I have no idea what he was paid, but it’s likely a fraction of what it would’ve cost Pepsi to advertise during the Super Bowl – and no, this is not me saying there isn’t a place for these blockbuster ads because TV advertising isn’t dead or dying, its role is just changing.

What about influencer marketing shifts the dial?

First of all, as marketers, we love data, but we also love creativity. The best influencer marketing connects both. To a certain extent, if you’re smart and strategic about your influencer stable, you’ll get a return on investment, short or long-term.

Before picking who you want to work with, you already have so much information at your fingertips to help make a pretty decent call – engagement rates, followers, demographic, brand performance, best-performing type of content, performance across social platforms – that removes some of the risk from the offset.

Contrary to advertising on TV, interrupting content that’s been chosen, people choose to follow these influencers. They create content for their followers. They know what works and what doesn’t. No matter how much money brands give these influencers, if they don’t stay true to their channel, chances are the content won’t perform. As a result, the brands won’t be back and nor will their followers. Some influencers don’t get that, but those who do will stay the distance.

But what next? Here’s what they’re asking for.

When will you put me into your brand ad?

And that, ladies and gentlemen is the turning point and full-circle moment. Instead of big A-listers whom consumers can’t identify with, you may start seeing that influencer you follow featured in your favorite new ad. They are just like you and me, and they have a talent people are interested in. They’ve got something to offer, and seeing your face looking back at you from a big billboard is something that many aspire to.

That concept is not so absurd any more.

I mean, who would have ever thought that a guy who loves spotting trains (Francis Bourgeois) would go on to feature in an ad campaign for North Face and Gucci?

For this to become an actual possibility, some things need to change.

The first thing?

Influencers aren’t just there to ‘amplify’ an ad idea. Treat them like an add-on and will get add-on results. Look at influencers as a genuine solution to a business and marketing challenge, and you could be on to some content going.’viral’.

Joking. There’s no such thing as pushing a viral button or everyone would be doing it.

However, if you’re strategic about which influencers you work with and work alongside them to create content (remember how they know their audiences and what works?), then you’ve got a pretty decent shot at creating something great that will start to shift the dial. Better yet, get your agencies to work hand-in-hand because the media buying agency can use that influencer content as part of its paid campaigns, and your ad agency may even want to use some of the influencers in ad concepts.

This leads me to the second point.

Influencer marketing should be treated as a specialist channel, but just like anything else in marketing, integrating it with other communications levers makes it more ef, which. Which is why it’s crucial to think about it more holistically. When we start conversations with influencers or their agents, brand alignment is crucial for both, including a rigorous process to get to that point. Once that’s done, it’s imperative we look at how to maximize these partnerships. The most common way is to put paid spend behind content that performs well.

The issue?

Budget, of course.

Influencer marketing agencies don’t tend to get the budgets ad agencies do, but with influencer marketers now negotiating for paid spend more often than not, something’s got to give. Brands have to get used to allocating more budget to influencer marketing.

It’s still a fraction of the cost, but it’s not cheap.

My final point?

Please stop giving influencer marketing to the brand intern as their pet project.

At best, it’s insulting, and at worst, it’s a waste of money. I remember the days when it was a challenge to get influencers paid, but that’s changed and the fees some of them demand are significant. Now many influencers have set their sights on ad deals, so unless you’re happy for the TV ad to be run by team members with little to no experience, why treat influencer marketing any different?

The best influencer marketing campaigns are strategic and based on experience and that experience comes from learning on the job. That’s not to say you shouldn’t get junior team members involved, because insights and creativity can come from anywhere, but it does mean you should take it seriously.

Brand Strategy Media Influencer Marketing

More from Brand Strategy

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +