Influencer marketing not influencer advertising. The terms are being conflated as the media throws shade on influencer marketing whilst also calling for increased use of skills core to the discipline.


The terms Influencer advertising and influencer marketing are becoming increasingly  conflated. This is, in large part, the result of recent media reporting and opinion of the fast-growth discipline. It is a mistake to lump both terms together.

There are four reasons for the media's backlash against influencer marketing:

  1. Tall poppy syndrome - Countless digital column inches over last few years have been devoted to lionising influencer marketing. Dog bites man is not news. Man bites dog is newsworthy. And so the media now pounces on negative influencer marketing stories.
  2. Lost ad revenue - Media mastheads lose advertising revenue to influencer marketing. There's both a degree of schadenfreude and financial incentive to knock the discipline which has helped keep advertising money away from their mastheads.
  3. Reporting - Fraud and fakery within elements of the influencer marketing cadre run the risk of 'tainting the well' and poisoning the whole fast-growth phenomenon. 
  4. Word Conflation - Using the terms influencer marketing and influencer advertising interchangably.

Influencer marketing not influencer advertising

But, influencer marketing is not influencer advertising. Just as media relations does not describe the whole of the public relations discipline. Publicity is not the same as PR as a strategic management function. There are variants under the influencer marketing umbrella, too. Influencer advertising is a subset of influencer marketing, but the subset does not speak for the whole category.

Why influencer marketing is not influencer advertising

The differences between Influencer marketing and influencer advertising have their roots in the differences between transactional marketing and relationship marketing.

Relationship marketing is a strategy which works to build and establish long-term relationships with their customers. Instead of focusing on one interaction, brands focus efforts to build bonds and loyalty between the business and its audience. 

Relationship marketing is a lengthier process than transactional marketing, requiring more time, energy and resources than the short-term presence of transactional marketing. Where relationship marketing focuses more on building connections and bonds, transactional marketing is more geared toward making a one-time sale. The table below highlights the main differences:

Relationship marketing vs transactional marketing

Transactional marketing

  • Focus on single outcome
  • Short timescale
  • Little emphasis on customer service
  • Limited customer commitment
  • Moderate customer contact
  • Quality is primary concern of production

Relationship marketing

  • Focus on customer retention
  • Orientation on customer benefits
  • Long timescales
  • High customer service emphasis
  • High customer commitment
  • High customer contact
  • Quality is concern of all

What is influencer advertising?

Influencer advertising is is a subset of the influencer marketing category. It is transactional and short-lived in focus. Work is orientated around tent-pole campaign contracts between influencer and brand.

Often driven by 'acquiring eyeballs' - brands become seduced by the influencer’s large following - and the theoretical reach that their branded messages are promised to benefit from.

Influencer advertising promotes one-hit-wonders rather than long-term relationships between brand and influencers.

BANJO influencer marketing

Influencer advertising is where BANJO influencers can be found. BANJO influencers are those people with a large social media following - whether bought, built, active or dormant - who Bang Another iNfluencer Job Out without any care for or affinity with the sponsoring brand or their audience. 

BANJO influencers are a social media phenomenon who are prepared to work with brands as ‘advertising billboards’. 

They take part in overly brand-scripted, overly brand-managed paid-for content ultimately succumbing to marketers’ instructions: “Here, read this out to your followers, hold this product up for the camera. Better yet, just cut and paste this message.”

When you forego building and nurturing a relationship influencers simply don’t care as much. This can end in a lose-lose situation for client and influencer.

At its core influencer marketing should drive action not only awareness. Being popular isn’t the same as being influential. Gaining large numbers of followers, impressions or visitors doesn’t necessarily translate into greater influence.

What is influencer marketing?

Real influence is accretive. It strengthens over time. Asked My Influencer philosphy in an interview by Traackr -  influencer marketing platform, I boiled it down to three elements: long-term, win-win and measurable.

The important skill sets for influencer marketing are twofold: there are hard skills and soft skills.

  1. The hard skills are data-centric skills. That is looking under the bonnet and choosing influencers based on demographics, what they've produced before, their ratio between engagement of sponsored and organic content etc. 
  2. The softer skills are crucial, too - building long-term and mutually beneficial, business-growth relationships.

I've outlined briefly in the table below the main differences between influencer advertising and influencer marketing:

Influencer advertising vs Influencer marketing

Influencer advertising

  • Transaction focused  
  • Focus on Reach is key metric
  • Short-lived tent pole campaigns
  • Short term metrics
  • Limited commitment to influencer
  • No relationship building
  • Limited effort required on both sides

Influencer marketing

  • Relationship focused 
  • Focus on appropriateness esp. Advocacy
  • Longer time horizons
  • A view of ROI over long term
  • Belief in a win:win business-growth relationship
  • Time spent on building relationship
  • Considerable effort required from both sides  

This month alone influencer marketing has come under the cosh from The Drum, The Atlantic, The Telegraph and Marketing Week mastheads. Thanks, in no small part to the three commitments made by Unilever CMO, Keith Weed. Their collective gripes are with influencer advertising not with influencer marketing though.

Whilst knocking the umbrella term of influencer marketing the articles manage to highlight the positive hallmarks of influencer marketing:

"Many of the marketers The Drum has since spoken to have committed to invest more time into understanding and managing the relationships with these social media stars," writes Jenifer Faull in the Drum.

“At Unilever, we believe influencers are an important way to reach consumers and grow our brands. Their power comes from a deep, authentic and direct connection with people, but certain practices like buying followers can easily undermine these relationships,” says Keith Weed, CEO, Unilever as quoted in the Drum.

L'Oréal's chief digital officer, Lubomira Rochet, told The Drum in yet another article this month that L'Oréal has stopped viewing influencer marketing as a "transactional" media buy, and instead sought to forge long-term relationships with a number of cherry-picked creators by using a data to identify the most relevant people to appeal to a particular brand's audience."Then, by creating long-term relationships [with them] we grow together. Our influencers are starting to have more influence over our product development."

  • Understanding and managing long term relationships
  • Deep, authentic connections
  • Use of data
  • Mutually beneficial relationships allowing brand and influencer to 'grow together'
  • Working with influencers beyond the awareness stage of the customer journey and incorporating their insight to influence the product development process

These are all facets of effective influencer marketing NOT influencer advertising.

With increased influencer marketing spend comes a greater need to demonstrate value return on investment (ROI). Accurate data and robust, independent campaign performance evaluation - along with industry benchmarking - are becoming fundamental elements of influencer marketing. In this ecoystem effective influencers working alongside appropriate brands will continue to enjoy lucrative careers. The BANJO influencers of influencer advertising will find their gravy train is about to hit the buffers.

Scott Guthrie is a professional adviser within the influencer marketing industry. He is an event speaker, university guest lecturer, media commentator on influencer marketing and active blogger. He works with brands, agencies and platforms to achieve meaningful results from influencer marketing. That tells you something about him but it's not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So, read more here.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Excellent explanation of the difference between influencer advertising and marketing, especially as it relates to transactional vs relationship marketing. Question: Do you see increased pressure for user privacy and disclosing sources as having an effect on this advertising vs marketing. Is it harder to leverage these relationships if the sandbox we can play in is getting smaller.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}