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In Defense of the Celebrity Influencer

By Published on .

Olivia Munn for Proactiv. Celebrities offer brands a greater value than so-called micro-influencers, Seth Kean argues.
Olivia Munn for Proactiv. Celebrities offer brands a greater value than so-called micro-influencers, Seth Kean argues. Credit: PRNewsFoto/Proactiv

Micro-influencers, those with 10,000-100,000 followers, have become advertisers' new social media darlings. This class of influencers engage niche audiences with messages authentic to their individual personalities and interests.

The simple story would be to say micro-influencers are valuable for digital advertising campaigns, and call it a day.

But that wouldn't be telling you the full story. The untold secret is that top celebrities (with their multi-million online personal audiences and strong name recognition) offer a greater value.

Just a couple years ago major brands spent only a small portion of their budget on influencer marketing. Now brands are spending between $200,000 to $500,000 per influencer marketing program. Over time, the rise of micro-influencers became a self-fulfilling prophecy: smaller budgets could only afford individuals with less reach and less name recognition. Moreover, the infrastructure to access and build relationships with top talent didn't exist yet. Finally, excessive spending on multiple micro-influencers meant there was not enough capital left for brands to build partnerships with celebrity talent.

Meanwhile, influencer marketing is exploding. A recent eMarketer report revealed 84% of marketers plan on executing at least one influencer marketing campaign during the next 12 months. Separately, eMarketer reports that over 80% of marketers who undertook campaigns collaborating with social media influencers found them to be beneficial for driving both engagement and awareness.

Today, with influencer marketing budgets on the rise, advertisers afford broader reach -- and celebrities with millions of followers represent the most effective and efficient vehicle to tell a brand's story. Celebrities, not micro-influencers, should lead influencer marketing media buys.

Buy from the best

Advertisers win when they partner with publishers who sell high reach, efficiency and robust targeting capabilities within a brand-friendly environment. As a media buyer or small business owner, would you buy search ads from Google or from the 39th-rated search engine? Would you buy social and display media from Facebook or the 88th-rated social media site? It's a no brainer.

Similarly, celebrities provide brands with the best ability to reach engaged audiences. Here are the top five reasons why:

1. Reach. Most top influencers have an audience (social media and site followers) greater than the top display sites in the categories of Fashion, Food, Shopping, Parenting, Finance, Sports and Technology. In fact, there are more U.S. based celebrities with 20 million unique followers than U.S. based web sites with 20 million unique visitors.

2. Efficiency. Along with lower CPMs for higher reach, there is more efficient cost savings when brands only need to engage a few key influencers to customize a message. There is significantly more time, effort and resources needed to engage 50 micro-influencers in one campaign.

3. Social media and display media extensions. Celebrity messaging allows the brand to best promote content on their own social media and display media pages. It's important to remember that celebrities are known by more than just his/her followers.

4. Brand friendly influencer and editorial teams. With more at stake with multi-million followings, top influencers understand the need to protect brand image. To support promoting a brand-friendly environment, many celebrities already have their own editorial team to find the right balance between promoting a relevant brand and staying true to their message and loyal audience.

5. Professionalism and accountability. Running larger influencer marketing campaigns requires a higher degree of thoughtful planning. Working with the top celebrities necessitates an entire community of stakeholders -- for both the brand and the influencer -- to work in concert and ensure success. Celebrity influencers have already built this ecosystem of personnel (lawyers, managers and agents) to create a more seamless partnership that works for brands, the influencer and their collective audiences.

To date, the celebrity influencer has been relegated to the digital marketer's blind spot, initially constrained by limited wallets and the lack of proper infrastructure. But this approach is no longer sustainable, nor effective, as the landscape has significantly upgraded. As a brand's influencer marketing budget expands, so too does its ability to tap into the bigger, relevant celebrities and influencer companies for the best mix of scale and engagements.

It's time for marketers to maximize the advantage of celebrity influencers and their multi-faceted assets. By utilizing both top celebrity talent and micro-influencers, and then layering in data and analytics to amplify success, brands put themselves in a highly esteemed, competitive position to continue the increase and success of influencer marketing.

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