The mental well being of influencers is again in the spotlight as a brand outs an influencer on social media over an unfulfilled £30 brand deal.
Children’s clothing brand Magpie [*] has taken to social media to ‘out’ an influencer. The company claims that Susan Pearce [*] - a mummy blogger with 5.4k followers on Instagram - failed to live up to her end of the deal in a brand collaboration worth £30.
Magpie says it ‘gifted’ Pearce a lounge suit in exchange for an Instagram post plus an Instagram Story plus rights to use Pearce's content for its own purposes.
Yesterday the Yorkshire-based brand uploaded an Instagram Story to its 58.6k followers. Over several pages the company wrote:
“On a daily basis we yet [sic] upwards of 10 emails re collabs and every now and again we do send free items out in exchange for coverage and exposure to new [Instagram] accounts. This is marketing for us. Obviously this costs us alot [sic] of money not only the garments but admin time staff time and a multitude of other things …
“A £30 lounge set plus postage is a lot of money we could have spent on facebook/insta ads which work WELL. But again in an aim for extra coverage and marketing we have started a few collabs.
“It is extremely disappointing when we do agree to these and then they do not hold out for their contract. We may agree to a story post AND feed post and then images sent to us to use on social media/advertising etc as an example in exchange for the garment. When influencers then do not do this … ignore emails & Instagram messages …. This is then why we stop doing things like collabs .. reps.. Etc as .. what is the point? So in an aid [sic] to stop other small businesses from experiencing this. We shall now be sharing these influencer accounts from time to time. We hope this helps you not being well being conned.
On the final page of the Story rant the following message was splashed across a screengrab of Pearce’s Instagram profile: “We recommend not using this influencer as images not posted or sent and ignores emails and messages.”
This morning Pearce responded to Magpie's vigilantism with her own Instagram Story. “Last night a brand I was working with decided to make stories about me to their 60k following telling everyone how awful I am and how brands shouldn’t work with me,” wrote Pearce.
The single mum continued explaining that she has done her “best to get content out on time and to its best quality”. But admitted it was difficult as she had recently become a single mum to toddler, Rupert, whilst heavily pregnant with a second child.
Race to the bottom
The terms of the Magpie and Pearce brand collaboration appear to be as follows: an Instagram Story plus an Instagram post plus image rights appears in return for a lounge suit retailing at £30. If it retails at £30 I’d assume the wholesale value to be around £10-£15.
£10 of goods in return for creative direction, photography, production, editing, caption copy writing, publication and handling over image rights?
The brand suggested the alternative to this influencer activation was an Instagram or Facebook advertisement. Who would have produced that content?
I do not pretend to know the ins and outs of the brand collaboration. I don’t know if there was a creative brief discussed or a contract signed. The brand says the activation was late so we can assume there were agreed timelines as well as deliverables.
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For sure Pearce should have contacted the brand as soon as she realised she wasn’t going to be able to produce the content to schedule. The brand says it emailed her three times and sent her an Instagram Direct Message - all to no response. Of course, we don’t know the frequency of these messages. They might have been over a month or all sent on a single day.
Image vs reality
The Siren song of the influencer lifestyle is beguiling. The reality for many is a far cry from the Insta-perfect world.
The psychological impact of struggling for work as a jobbing content creator whilst wrestling the responsibilities of being a single mum must be immense. Pile on that the uncertain cashflow, heightened competition and the constant ‘hustle’ required to land brand collabs … . It’s not for the faint of heart.
Pearce explained in her Story that she felt that she was at breaking point “My mental and physical health has been horrific the past few weeks and as much as I try to take care of myself my growing baby and toddler come first.”
Yes, from a brand’s point-of-view it is galling to send out product in good faith and not receive the agreed-upon content. The deal terms do appear to be pretty one-sided though. Its approach to handing out ‘justice’ also appears overly zealous.
“People need to think more about their words, how they can use their influence and the impact they can cause.” wrote Pearce “I feel so extremely low, lost and at breaking point. You don’t’ know what someone is going through and how your words can push them over the edge. I thank everyone for their support and the brands who have reached out to check I am okay”
The mental wellbeing of influencers is a growing concern for our industry. The value that content creators bring to brands needs to be properly reflected in the brand deals.
Brands and influencers should professionalise their approach to working together. That means having agreements in place and adhering to those agreements. It also means being human; giving the benefit of the doubt and not going nuclear over a tenner’s worth of goods.
Magpie has since removed its takedown of Susan Pearce from Instagram. Has it found heart or succumbed to online pressure? I suspect the latter. Will the negative commercial impact of this outing be greater than the cost of the lounge suit?
[*] EDITOR'S NOTE
Neither Magpie nor Susan Pearce are the real names of the brand and influencer involved in this incident. Both names have been changed to protect anonymity. All other aspects of the story are genuine. The quotes used in the article were taken from Instagram today.