Episode 16 of the Influencer Marketing Lab podcast where I speak with Rahul Titus, head of influence, Ogilvy


The Influencer Marketing Lab podcast is sponsored by Tagger the data-driven influencer marketing platform and social listening tool.

Show notes

Welcome to episode 16 of the Influencer Marketing Lab - a weekly podcast tracking the growth spurts and growing pains of influencer marketing.

This week I'm in conversation with Rahul Titus head of influence at Ogilvy.

In our interview we cover:

In this episode we discuss:

  • Why 2020 was such a pivotal year for the influencer marketing industry
  • The growth of social commerce as part of an 'always on' influence plan
  • Celebrities becoming more authentic and participative on socials
  • Why 2021 is the year influencer marketers should be bold and show confidence in our discipline
  • How influencer marketers can address the influencer pay gap. We dig into Rahul's six stages in the process to become part of the solution to an industry-wide problem
  • The need to build a community of influencer marketers to shape the future of our discipline

Influencer Pay Gap 6 step solution Rahul Titus influencer marketing lab

Rahul Titus offers a six-stage process for tackling the influencer pay gap

four stages of competence influencer marketing lab

Rahul Titus biography

Rahul Titus has been a prominent player within influencer marketing right from its’ infancy.

He is the Head of Influence at Ogilvy, having built the influence specialism across the network.

There he is in charge of setting the strategic direction of the Ogilvy influence proposition that covers the full spectrum of influencer work, from celebrities all the way through the power middle and micro-influencers.

Rahul Titus heads up a team of creative experts who are responsible for delivering best in class influencer marketing for clients including Walgreens Boots Alliance, Bacardi, Vans, PlayStation, Unilever, TK Maxx, British Airways and Mattel. 

Before joining Ogilvy, Rahul set up and ran MediaCom’s global influencer offering and has also served as Director of Social Talent at the YMU Group (formerly James Grant) looking after some of the world’s leading social-first talent.

Rahul has a degree in Finance and Economics from Christ College and a Masters in Marketing from the University of Manchester.

He has been named one of the Top 50 global players in Influencer Marketing by Taking Influence in both 2019 and 2020. 

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Scott Guthrie  03:04

Well, it wasn't until I was doing some research ahead of this podcast that I realised that you work for group M. Was your role there the same as that of Ana Thorsdotir and Emily Trenouth?

Rahul Titus  03:16

slightly different so when I joined MediaCom I used be at Dentsu Aegis and I was brought in by MediaCom to basically set up the influence function. I was member number one of that team all those years ago.

Scott Guthrie  03:28

How many years ago was that, Rahul?

Rahul Titus  03:29

Feels like a lifetime ago? I want to say 2014? If I'm not wrong.

Scott Guthrie  03:34


Rahul Titus  03:35

Quite a long time ago, you know, like, Gleam was just set up, Tanya Burr was slowly becoming an influencer. Zoella was somebody that you know, had a feature in Cosmopolitan magazine. So well before influencer marketing was a thing. So I actually started in MediaCom, to set up their SEO content team. And then I saw this influencer work really starting to pop up. And I just knew instantly that this was the future. So I actually pitched the idea of setting up a team, not just for SEO content, but you know, looking at influence generally. We actually set up the first influence team within any WPP agency all those years ago. And it's grown since as you can tell,

Scott Guthrie  04:16

So you're now head of influence at Ogilvy in a couple of sentences. Can you describe what your role involves, and perhaps us, give us a taster of a day in the life

Rahul Titus  04:26

Every single day for me is is very different. And I wouldn't change that for the world. I absolutely love it. I'm in charge of influence at Ogilvy so what that basically means is that I look after the strategic direction of where the influencer proposition is, you know, generally heading so that includes everything from client work and making sure that the work we produce is always award winning, top notch creative. And you know, best in class that's really important to us as an agency.

Clients always come first. I'm also in charge of making sure that our product is market leading. So that is making sure that we have the right technology. So we have things like InfluenceO  which we've built over the last few years to really be the world's best technology stack when it comes to influence marketing, as part of that, making sure that we have the best team in the world.

So I take incredible pride in the team, we have at Ogilvy, not just in the UK, but across the globe. You know, they're all people that I personally hired or worked with over the last few years to basically make sure that we have a best in class offering wherever you meet us around the world. So a lot of my day tends to involve in making sure that we have the best client work, we have the best product, the best people and in making sure that this stays where it is.

Scott Guthrie  05:33

Well, you've got a stellar Thank you. You've got a stellar lineup of clients that you work with, but 2021 was still in January. Other common obstacles you still come across when selling in the concept of influencer marketing with potential clients.

Rahul Titus  05:49

Absolutely. You know, what, 10 years ago, my number one issue was making sure that people understand what influencer marketing can do 10 years later, it's still exactly that. You'd be surprised a number of people who still don't understand influencer marketing, or if they do, they don't know the full potential of it.

So 10 years ago, a lot of my slides use it things like what is an influencer? Yes, what influencer marketing can do for you, right now. It's not very dissimilar. I'm no longer explaining the concept of what you know of like what an influencer is. But what I'm actually telling my clients today is actually how they can really benefit their marketing plans, and in how to not look at them as just somebody who sat in their bedroom holding a product on social media, you know, they can really add so much more to their marketing mix.

And that's a lot of what I'm still working with. So right now, it is really talking to clients about how, you know, if you bring an influencer and as part of your integrated marketing mix, you can really help reshape how you look at marketing as a whole. Right from TVC to point of sale. So it's still a very similar conversation, just very different in terms of you know, what that role of that influencer really is. That's still my number one obstacle today, surprisingly.

Scott Guthrie  06:58

On a more positive note, Rahul, what are the opportunities you see for influencer marketing as an industry? It's a bit of an open question. But what two or three key opportunities? Can you see?

Rahul Titus  07:07

Yeah, I mean, I feel as old as the furniture in this industry. But for me, I still get up every morning, genuinely excited about the opportunities that we have in our space. Or I wouldn't be up, you know, to be honest. And there's so many, because I think the reason I get really excited about this space, because we still haven't even touched the surface of this whole industry. You know, we're still at the tip of the iceberg. We haven't explored anything underneath it. Right now, the influencer marketing industry, it's still very much in its infancy. It's very much you know, for me, it's right now grumpy teenager who's trying to figure out where it's at in the world.

Scott Guthrie  07:43

I think that's a nice analogy. And that's the the tagline for this podcast. It's the growth spurts the growing pains of influencer marketing.

Rahul Titus  07:50

Exactly. And, and you know, and I think as this teenager really tries to discover where he or she fits in this world, I think we will learn a lot more about our space. And I can definitely see that happening. 2020 was quite an instrumental. Yeah.

Scott Guthrie  08:02

And what was

Rahul Titus  08:03

All of a sudden , I think what you saw was people started appreciating the value of influence, all of a sudden, you could shoot a TV ad, using influencers from your bedrooms, and that was absolutely acceptable. You know, before that there was this hesitancy, from big creative agencies, producers, etc, to really use influences in their mainstream plan.

So I think last year, we really crossed a very big barrier in terms of really figuring out what influencer marketing can do. And for me, the potential for 2021 is massive. I'm really genuinely excited about things like e commerce or influence commerce, generally, I mean, we've started to do a lot of work in this space. And to be honest, there's so much more to be done in this space, you know, we've seen influencers really drive real transactions in the millions, but then it's really not being tracked very well.

So I think 2021 for me, I'm personally very excited about seeing the measurement space as a whole really mature, and then in turn, really looking at e commerce, adapting influence as part of that always on plan. So that's really exciting. For me, I'm also very excited on the other end, to really see how celebrities and how, you know, some of the bigger influences really tap into mainstream influence. So you know, what I mean by that is really seeing these people more active on social media, seeing them actually get more heavily involved, from a more personal point of view, not just have a publicist, post on their behalf, seeing more Q&As, Instagram lives, etc. So really being more approachable.

And again, 2020 really set the precedents for that. We know people want authenticity, people want real, you know, realness. I mean, a lot of bigger celebrities are starting to tap into that a lot more, evidently. And I'm also really excited to see us as an industry take bolder steps, because I think a lot of times we just don't have the confidence to really, you know, sit in the big table and talk about influencers being monitored spec disciplines that can really drive growth for a brand. I also say 2021 That you're there, our industry really starts being more confident and really, you know, pushing our agenda to be basically recognised as one of the biggest growth channels for any marketing team in the world.

Scott Guthrie  10:12

What are you talking about e commerce, I read a stat that discipline has grown five years in five months, thanks in Well, almost entirely due to the pandemic. But when we talk about e commerce, I think, increasingly social commerce, we're already playing catch up in the West with what has been doing in Asia for three, four or five years on platforms like WeChat, etc.

But that's really interesting. And in terms of what you're saying about getting access to influences and the sort of the price compression, one of the early interviews I did, I think was Episode Two was with Ollie Lewis from The Fifth. And he was explaining a bit of content that one of his creators put together for about £200, and it was near TV broadcast quality.

But that shows you that you know, and that was created in lockdown as well. Or done on a mobile phone done or done with a drone that was bought from PC World of the Old Kent Road. So just shows you what now is possible.

Rahul Titus  11:11

 Yeah. I mean, absolutely. And, and, you know, for me, I think you you know, like, that's one really important thing. So yes, it's, you're absolutely right, when I say e commerce, it is it is Social Commerce has really grown. But for me, I think 2021 is the year that we actually see influence commerce really come on its own. So it's really taking that next step. So yes, social commerce is now quite a credible way to sell and, you know, a lot of brands and marketers use that.

But then I think what we're slowly seeing is that it's that power of, of combining social commerce with influences that really help tap into both reach awareness, but then also then drive action. Right. So for me, that killer combination is is you know, is like basically what's gonna really mature in 2021.

And on your second point, absolutely. I mean, you know, before 2020, we really didn't know what Britney Spears' living room looks like but now we do, right? So all of a sudden, all these big celebrities have really become real people, and not really changes the industry as a whole. So we actually shot a full ad, you know, very early on during the lockdown back in March for TikTok, again, petrified about how you're going to shoot a TV ad at that stage. But we managed to do that with some of the biggest celebrities in the world.

So everybody from Little Mix to Gordon Ramsay to Tom Daley, etc, all short on a phone, all shot with a creative director giving directions on zoom. And all of a sudden, you saw these people really, you know, like marketers and brands, really, I mean, had that moment where they basically realised that, Oh, we've got these people who know how to shoot an act.

They know how to use a phone, you've done this all their lives, and they can do that from their bedrooms. And that was a big moment. So for me, influence is no longer a standalone channel that sits on the side, we don't have to fight that battle anymore as an industry.

2020 was that year that everything radically changed. And I think this year as an industry, you know, this is our opportunity, we really need to push those boundaries, we need to take what we learned in 2020 and and really supercharge it, I genuinely am super excited about seeing where we take it because we've got some incredibly good people in our industry. So for me, that makes it really exciting.

Scott Guthrie  13:20

Well, it is exciting. I think back to your earlier point where we need to be bolder, we need to have more confidence as as a growing discipline to be able to make those things and whilst it might be fatuous when it is fat just to derive positives out of a pandemic, I think 2020 showed that influencer marketing came of age, it was legitimised as a comms channel, the World Health Organisation United Nations, various governments around the world tapped into the ability of influencers, to carry messages into parts of society that are no longer actively engaged in legacy media. They don't read newspapers, they don't listen to the radio, they don't watch free to wear linear television.

I want to turn now and talk about the influencer pay gap. I know this is an issue close to your heart, Adesuwa Ajayi, founder of the Influencer Pay Gap has agreed to be a guest on this podcast later this year. And she'll speak and I'm very excited about that. We've been to-ing and fro-ing with emails it so she she's on board and just trying to get a date in our respective diaries. She'll speak from an influencer's or a creator's point of view, but as a marketer, can you explain what is meant by the influence of pay gap and why that's important?

Rahul Titus  14:37

Yes, absolutely. So Scott, it I mean, it's something that's incredibly close to my heart and you know, I'm an I'm a big fan of the influencer pay gap. I actually had it on on my panel in like the end of 2020 at the Influencer Marketing Show. She'd be a great person on your podcast for me.

Let's take the pay gap generally. I think Firstly, last year, again, was very instrumental in really bringing to life some of the issues We have in our space, the pay gap was a real issue that, you know, obviously came through very, very clearly and very loudly. And just to put that in context. So even today, men get paid more for an Instagram post and women on average around the world, which is ridiculous, because it's an industry that's run by women.

Scott Guthrie  15:18

I read somewhere that the discrepancy was around 7% does that chime with what you believe it is?

Rahul Titus  15:23

Exactly, it is, it is 7% on average, and, and to be honest, in our own audits, we've seen it to be much higher, and in some markets, some lower around the world, but 7%, on average, is absolutely spot on. And also I think the negative inverse, you've got a white influencer gets paid 10 times more than a BAME influencer to do the same content. And  that was a shocking stat.

Scott Guthrie  15:47

It's extraordinary.

Rahul Titus  15:49

It's scary, very scary. And I think it's even scarier, because obviously, if you look at an agency, like Ogilvy, I take a lot of pride in the fact that I am a BAME background person who is not from the UK, who is running the influence team for a very big global agency based in the UK. So to see that really, you know, come to shine, you know, like come to light, even in some of our clients was really disappointing, if nothing else.

So I think generally, you know, people don't talk about these things, people just kind of go, you know, this is not really important. But I think what we decided as an agency last year, is to really look at this as an issue. So the first thing we did is actually acknowledge the fact that there was an issue. So we actually audited a lot of our clients to, you know, to actually look at, where we see this issue coming up in terms of pay gap.

And again, when I say pay gap, it's it's multiple things. It could be gender, it could be ethnicity, it could be differently abled, it could be sexual orientation, there's so many different things to think about when you talk about the pay gap. It's not just an issue around gender, or ethnicity. And I think a lot of people forget that sometimes. I think, you know, going back to what I was saying, I think really figuring out that acknowledging that there is an issue. So really start by starting by auditing, the work we've been doing,

Scott Guthrie  16:57

Before we go on to the auditing just a second or two on acknowledgement. All change initiatives start with building awareness. Yeah. But being confronted with a potential issue to change is often met with defence, or denial. That's sort of something that other agencies do. We don't do that that sort of stuff that other clients, do. We our clients don't do that. How did Ogilvy react when he said, there's a potential problem here?

Rahul Titus  17:22

You know, I'm quite lucky in the sense that Ogilvy is a very open agency, we take pride in the fact that we want to be the best that influence and we want to do it the right way. So for me, it actually came as a shock, you know, because we didn't really realise that this was actually, you know, being an issue. And for me, it's not the size of the issue, the fact that the issue itself is still an issue, right?

Obviously, there might be other agencies that might have a bigger issue or a smaller issue, etc. I mean, you know, that doesn't matter, the fact that we still have that issue is an issue. And I think the way we look at it generally, is that we want to be better, you know, we want to be doing much better at this.

And I think we're quite lucky in the sense that we actually partner with our clients at quite a senior level. And where Ogilvy sits in that chain normally tends to be that we can have very open transparent conversations around strategy around thought leadership around change for the brands we work with.

So obviously, us acknowledging that this is something that we need to look at. And this is something we need to fix very quickly. And, you know, we were very transparent about that we were very open about that with all of our clients. And to be honest, we had all our clients very openly appreciate the fact that, you know, this is something that we want to get behind. Like that acknowledgement state was actually incredibly easy for us because we were very open and transparent.

Scott Guthrie  18:37

Well, it was easy, but as you as you've hinted, Rahul, it was easy, because you have those long seated relationships with senior people with it within the clients that you represent. So there's this creative management, a climate of trust and open communication, which is the sorts of things that we need desperately. But I wouldn't sort of diminish by saying it was easy Ogilvy's roll at, being able to have those relationships. I think that that takes time to nurture.

Rahul Titus  19:02

Yeah, absolutely fair. I mean, absolutely fair. I, we need to be more confident to have these conversations. And I think a lot of the times, there's a lot of fear in people actually acknowledging these conversations. You know, I mean, I very openly talk about these things, because I want us to be more confident, and I want us to basically, push our agenda forward. And I've spoken to a lot of leaders within our industry, they all genuinely believe that this is an issue and they really want to fix it. So I think, you know, really getting those people to really open up and be more confident really is a key for me.

Scott Guthrie  19:30

 I stopped your flow. I think there are six steps in your solu tion. We've talked about the acknowledgement that they're potentially a problem. The second step is to conduct an audit. So can you tell me a little bit more about that?

Rahul Titus  19:41

You know, what we did when we realised that the influencer pay gap was real and and really happening around the world and need to acknowledge is actually audit the work we've been doing. So really looking at all the work you've done, with influencers.  Really figuring out if that is an issue that actually exists and then really quantifying the size of the issue. I think it's fine to acknowledge that there's an issue, but then also quantifying the size that you should really makes it real for senior management.

If you are starting on this journey, from what we've learned, I definitely say audit and an audit very openly. And and help quantify that issue, because I think that'll really make it real. And that's how we normally audit.

So what we were looking for generally, is the kind of people we work with what we actually paid them if there was a monetary transaction there. And then thirdly, what was the output from that? You know, did it actually match up in to other influencers, etc, etc. So, you know, we were really looking at multiple things as part of the audit, you know, setting once you've done your audit, what I would probably say is, that gives you a point of view on the size of the issue, as well, as you know if that issue actually exists or not for you.

And then what I probably say is talk to people outside your bubble. And that's really important to me, I think we all move in our circles, we tend to talk to the same people. And I think, you know, lock downs not being easy. It's even, it's even easier for us to stay within our bubbles. 

So one of the biggest things I probably say is talk to people outside your bubble, talk to people who are different from you, to really help understand the issue a lot better. For us. We are very lucky that we've got a few internal groups like Ogilvy Roots,

Scott Guthrie  21:13

Perhaps you can describe briefly what Ogilvy Roots is,

Rahul Titus  21:16

Ogilvy Roots was was set up within the network to really help us champion greater ethnic and cultural diversity. And they do this within the advertising comms and marketing space. So great organisation, they actually have one, you know, within WPP now as well now. And what it really helps us do is, is basically help us push the boundaries and push the agenda when it comes to society at large.

So really making sure that everything we produce is actually culturally and ethnically correct and actually diverse. It's actually acknowledging the society we live in, they've been a great partner for us within the influence team to really talk to to make sure that the work we're producing is top notch -  (1) , but also reflective of the society we live in. Again, they do some incredible work. If you haven't looked at Ogilvy Roots, I'd definitely Google them, they are well worth a look at. We also have a few other organisations that are very, very similar that actually helped us on this journey.

So one of them is Ogilvy Proud, which is our LGBTQ+ network. And again, another great organisation group within the Ogilvy network that really helps us make sure that the work we're putting forward is positive to that wider LGBTQ+ community. They also do a lot of consultations across our clients.

And we also have something called Ogilvy Equals, which again, really helps us think about gender and talking about gender equality, and you know, true gender equality. And that could be everything from people are working from home, they have different time schedules.

So all these different things come together. So you know, when I say talk to people outside of your bubble, what I mean is find these people who can really give you a strong point of view on where, you need to make those changes.

Scott Guthrie  22:44

For outside the bubble you're really talking about acknowledging unconscious bias. Eric Toda, former marketing executive at places like The Gap and Airbnb, Nike and Snapchat, he said:

"You tend to see marketers let the unconscious biases make decisions. It's not a secret that marketing is a predominantly white industry. So naturally, there are marketers who choose influencers who look like them. It's safe, it's reliable, but unfortunately, it's not real life."

Tapping into that unconscious bias. There's another quote I like from advertising industry legend Cindy Gallup, she said,

"I'm not a fan of the word diversity, because it's not about diversity. It's about humanity. When you talk about diversity, all we're talking about is reflecting the world as it really is".

So it's not necessarily about diversity or inclusion, but it's about representation. So I think that having access to something like Ogilvy Roots is really helpful to have it, you know, internally to challenge you on your on your biases. And at least, you know, at least be aware that their, their conscious biases rather than the unconscious biases, and then you can seek to alter those.

Rahul Titus  23:57

Absolutely, absolutely. And, you know, I mean, we always talk about going beyond D&I, you know, it's no longer I mean, it's not diversity and inclusion, it's actually diversity, inclusion and belonging, you have the right, it's not a human resource issue. It's actually a human issue.

People sometimes forget that. And I think what I've probably seen, you know, just to add to what you're saying is that people are scared to talk about it, not because they don't want to help.  Not because they don't think it's an issue. It's it because they don't know how to talk about it. I think a lot of the times people don't know, what are the right terms, people don't know what to say.

And you know, people are always worried about what other people think about their point of view as well. So I think generally, we just need to get a lot more comfortable acknowledging the issue and and really get more comfortable talking about it. And I think that's exactly why I say go beyond your bubble, talk to people outside your bubble, because you'd be genuinely surprised as to how it will help you open up your point of view, but also help you open up conversations in terms of being more comfortable with you know, with yourself talking about these things.

Scott Guthrie  27:04

we're talking about the influencer pay gap. And we are talking about your six steps to be part of the solution rather than the problem, we've covered acknowledgement that there potentially is a problem. We've covered how you need to audit it, how you have to be aware of unconscious bias and look outside your bubble. The next step is to educate stakeholders. What do you mean by that?

Rahul Titus  27:28

I think it's well and good that you want to create change, and you really want to, you know, be part of that solution. But to be honest, what I've learned is that you need to get people on your journey, it's not something you can do alone, take all this information you've got take, you know, take everything you've learned and really get people on that journey.

And that could be your cheerleaders, the people who obviously want to see you make that change. They include your senior stakeholders, the people who actually have the power to make decisions. And it includes your team, you know, get your team on that journey as well get everybody excited about what this really means for them. And part of that is basically, you know, educating all these different stakeholders and actually taking them on that journey.

So really important, you're not in this alone, get people on a journey with you, which is you know, which I think a lot of people sometimes forget to do. After that. What I will say is, you know, I think that's number four, number five for me is develop an inside out strategy.

So what I mean by that is, it's validly that you want to make this change, but you need to start by looking inward. Really look at your organisation. Look at where you work, look at your team, look at the people you you actually counsel with, and then really start looking at how do you basically make that change from inside out? Do you have the right team structure?

Are you is your team made up of the right kind of people? Are you working with the right people? What is your strategy for your own organisation? So before you start fixing other people's problem, basically get your house in order is is what I'm trying to say there.

Scott Guthrie  28:56

Making it systemic. So you could just pay the going rate for influencers fair pay for fair play. But you're saying you have to build it equity as part of your organization's DNA has to be a systemic change, rather than just sort of a an output, if you like, is that what you're saying?

Rahul Titus  29:14

Absolutely. Plus, it's long term. It's not, it's not a strategy for you to look at as part of your Q1 output. It's not that this is something that we need to change as part of society. And for you to do that. It is a long term systemic change that needs, you know, constant work and constant attention.

So for you to do that, if you you know, if if you don't have the right infrastructure in place to basically support you, it is a strategy that will fail. So it becomes so important to basically get your house in order before you look at fixing the wider issue per se, you know, within society.

Scott Guthrie  29:46

What are the barriers, I would have thought, to change would be a commercial imperative. Has there been any pushback from clients or saying I wouldn't expect to name names but the charge would be? Well, you're actually telling us to pay more. Why would we want to pay more? How do you  counter that argument?

Rahul Titus  30:03

I don't think there is a commercial imperative if I'm being very honest.

Scott Guthrie  30:06

Well, if you're saying that a BAME influencer gets paid a 10th, of a white male influencer, why would a client not work with more BAME influences and pay them 10% of what they pay? That's my point. And to be absolutely clear, I'm only playing devil's advocate here. How would you set about countering that argument?

Rahul Titus  30:26

So I think No, I mean, that's, that's a great point. And I'm sure that's a problem that a lot of people do face, I think, for me, you generally need to be I mean, I talk about fair pay for, you know, a fair play fair pay. Absolutely. And I think that's part of our strategy. Generally, what we are trying to do is make sure that influences get incentivized for the amount of time they put into their work, irrespective of, of things that shouldn't matter, gender, ethnicity, etc, things that don't matter for us. And you know, shouldn't matter to anybody.

So for me, that isn't the commercial imperative there. Because I think generally, we're quite lucky to have clients that basically buy into that strategy. And it's a long term game. They trust influencer marketing, they look at influencer marketing as part of their long term plans. And as part of that longer term strategy, paying influencers less than what they're worth is definitely not part of that solution.

Anyway, you know, so once I get to a point that Scott, I think what I'm trying to say is that that's exactly what we need to basically start getting people on that journey with us, you know, really getting our clients to understand that it is fair for us to pay them for the amount of work they do, and paying them fairly for that, you know, irrespective of all these things that shouldn't matter becomes really important. And anybody who looks at this as a short term solution will fail in the long run, yes, you might be getting more influences for your budget right now, because you can afford to pay them lesser, you know, these influencers are going to grow to become bigger and better. And as part of your long term strategy that will fail. So you might as well get it right, right now.

Scott Guthrie  31:57

But that's also a testament to the calibre of your clients, and the senior level of which you are consulting with them, I would imagine. So now I suppose that the last rung of the ladder is just to get on with it, is it?

Rahul Titus  32:09

Absolutely. So you know what, I can't say this enough. A lot of people spend so much time strategizing and doing all these meetings around, you know, what is the right strategy, what works, what doesn't work? My best advice to you is, once you've got your basic foundation, right, just crack on with it, don't wait. If you don't crack on with this right now, you basically, you know, lose that momentum, and it's pointless.

This is an issue that's happening right now, it's not an issue that's happening in 2022. And we need to basically do it right now. So my top tip is acknowledge the issue audit, think outside your bubble, educate your stakeholders develop an inside out strategy.

But at the end of the day, if you don't do anything with any of these things, it's pretty pointless. So there, you know, you've got nothing to lose, if your foundation is right, and it's coming from a good place, just crack on, try it. And then you will see why we've actually made such a systemic change, you know, within the Ogilvy framework, you know, because it actually works. And it actually is good for business.

Scott Guthrie  33:07

There's that quote, as they're often attributed to Winston Churchill: "However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results".

So, to rebadge, that Nike tagline, 'Just do it'.

Your process is similar to the four stages of becoming competent, whereby the learner passes from being an unconscious, incompetent, through being a conscious, incompetent, then a conscious, competent and ultimately becoming an unconscious competent, you're doing it without thinking it's part. It's ingrained within the systems within the culture within the organisation that at the time for a little bit of future gazing, we've talked about 2020 and how that sort of pushed influencer marketing more into the mainstream headlights. What do you see as the 2021 predictions? We've talked a little bit about social commerce. What other headlines are you seeing?

Rahul Titus  34:04

Social commerce. My big bet for 2021 it's going to grow and grow exponentially without a doubt. I also think employee influence or employee advocacy is going to be really big in 2021. I mean, we saw employee influence really starting to kind of come off its own in 2021.

Scott Guthrie  34:22

It's been big on b2b influencer marketing for a gazillion years. But you're absolutely right. I think we've seen it with Amazon and with Dunkin' Donuts. We've seen it done a whole host of companies that are kind of courting and that the platform's have changed, whereas it used to be the bastion of, of LinkedIn and Twitter. Now it's moved to Instagram and to TikTok.

Rahul Titus  34:42

I mean, you know what, let me rephrase that. I think it's probably employee advocacy is going to become mainstream in 2021. That's why we have ad mainly because you're right employee influence has been there for donkey's years.

And, you know, we know it's been a thing, and so is b2b influence as part of that, but I think 2021 is the year that employee influence really starts coming into the mainstream. And you know what we've actually seen that again, 2020 was a great year to kind of help formalise that because you had these organisations who have to get a lot of information to their employees, and you keep the morale up, etc. And it was just not a top down approach anymore. 

So we've actually seen a lot of brands tap into employee advocacy, generally, and quite significantly. So I think that's going to grow into 2021, you're going to see more more mainstream companies take it up, not just for retail employees, so not just the Starbucks of the world, I mean, it you're going to start seeing it in like mainstream, you know, workplaces as well.

Scott Guthrie  35:35

So social commerce, employee advocacy, any others for the year?

Rahul Titus  35:39

Yes, I'm also gonna bet big on influencers, really growing their own brands. Yeah, this is a trend that's been like a constant, slow and steady growth for the last few years. But I think 2021 is the year that I genuinely believe that influencer brands will actually go really mainstream. So what I mean by that is, again, influencers confidently creating their own brands, partnering with already existing brands, and in really helping sell and again, that's connected back to social commerce. So it's all a vicious cycle, as well.

Scott Guthrie  36:11

Most recently, we saw Mr. Beast, launching his 300 burger joints, and that's springboarding from his community. It's interesting, and we talk a lot about that we touched on it a little bit, briefly, at the top of our conversation of I think, in conjunction with social commerce and e commerce with the West is catching up with the East, the Chinese make a differentiation between influencers and key opinion leaders.

So when Wang Hong  is an internet celebrity. Wang Hong differs from anglo-centric understanding of influences, and that their focus is on monetizing audiences via retail activity, and product lines, just as you're describing what we'd think of as influences they term KOL or key opinion leaders, that's probably a conversation for another time. But that is a key trend that we're gonna see. And it's not just gonna be the celebrities like Mr. Beast or the Kardashians, it's gonna become more 

Rahul Titus  37:05

It's gonna be micro, and the people you and I follow and actually think we know quite well, I mean, it's not the celebrities because, you know, they've been doing it for years. And again, that's gonna, you know, that's gonna keep growing. I think, you know, Kim's gonna add another 20 lines this year, obviously, within I also think you will see the micros and the nanos and you know, like the mid tier influences really start actually confidently launching their own lines and being very proud of it. I mean, I'm seeing many more Zoella's basically this year. And you know, for me, I think one last one, again, really important.

And I think 2021 is a year of inclusive influence. So really going beyond that lip service, and really making sure that the influence of plans that people are putting together are actually inclusive.

So what I mean by that is three things. So inclusive in terms of compensation, fair pay for fair play, we've launched something called MMR which is a maximum margin rate. All our suppliers that we work with now have agreed to an MMR. So we know most of the money we pay, our suppliers actually goes to the end influences so it's no longer getting stuck in middlemen, I think we're going to see inclusive influence in terms of casting.

So really making sure that we are more reflective of the society we live in from a casting point of view. And I'm already seeing that happen, which is really good. And I also think we're going to be inclusive in terms of creative so really acknowledging the counter view culture and really making sure that we are training people to be inclusive when it comes to creative as a whole, I think is a big, big trend. So inclusive influence in general 2021 I'm really hoping becomes a big thing.

Scott Guthrie  38:32

There's hope that it becomes a reality. We're running very short of time, but I want to ask you a couple more questions. How can influencer marketing professionalise? Right at the top you said that you're still not having to explain what influencer marketing is. But you're hampered in in showing influencer marketing at its full potential. How can we help professionalise our industry?

Rahul Titus  38:52

I mean, I've said this for years, I think the influencer industry is notorious for not talking to each other. Unfortunately, it's quite a small world still. So we all compete with each other. So I think a lot of people are genuinely worried to actually talk to each other, you know, talk to each other about issues actually face as an industry, which, unfortunately, is really putting our industry in jeopardy because things like you know, the influence of pay gap, things like measurement across the whole space, these things are issues that we should be collectively trying to fix. And right now, that's just not happening at all. So for me, I think it is really, really important that the influencer marketing industry comes together and openly shares information. And you know, across the whole space,

Scott Guthrie  39:37

the bedrock tenets of influencer marketing is authenticity and trust. And yet, as practitioners, we don't kind of trust each other with our own data. And I think to effect a change, we have to demonstrate the same level of trust as we hope our creators or influencers, use on their platforms we should use when trusting our peers with some of our own data.

Rahul Titus  40:00

Exactly, I would really, really want to see the industry this year come together a little bit more. I mean, unfortunately, we're all stuck in a pandemic, and we can't really, you know, leave our bedrooms. But again, that's just what the influencer marketing industry does anyways, you know, we all, you know, I mean, we make people famous who work in bedrooms. So, I mean, I'm sure we should be able to find a way to come together and really help professionalise this whole space. Because again, we've got much more to gain than to lose, spatially talking to each other a little bit more. So for me, I'm really hoping that we can all come together this year to help really shape our industry a lot more. Me and you know, Scott, you like, you know, we're all really open to it. So I think that'd be something that I'm genuinely looking forward to this year.

Scott Guthrie  40:40

Rahul, how do you continue to learn in order to stay on top of things? What are your go to sources for information about the industry

Rahul Titus  40:47

I'm still very heavily involved in, in day to day client work, I get involved in absolutely everything, unfortunately, for my team, but that rarely helps me keep on top of things. So I think the you know, like the minute you stop getting involved in the day to day is the is the day you stop learning.

So for me, it's incredibly important that I still talk to all my clients on a regular basis, I'm still heavily involved in all the work we produce as a team, I'm still following all the influences that I like, but also, you know, keeping an eye out for all these new influences. I'm just to see where the whole industry is at and are to follow a lot of my counterparts across the industry. And I do this across multiple channels and multiple platforms.

There's great specialist knowledge banks, like Talking Influence, I think is absolutely fab. Has a lot of information for people and you know, at various levels of influencer knowledge.

But I also tell people in the industry to to look broader, read Campaign. Read the drum read things that actually give you a general marketing point of view as well, because what that helps you do is then visualise influence as part of a wider marketing mix, and not just making an influence on its own. And that's really important. follow some people on LinkedIn. And in all these other platforms, you'd be surprised how many people in our industry actually share a lot of information as well, on the other side, so really following people like Scott, for example. Well, it gives you a varied point of view across as well.

Scott Guthrie  42:09

Thank you very much for the name check. I appreciate that. That was unexpected, but welcome.

Rahul Titus  42:14

Hashtag ad, right.

Scott Guthrie  43:10

Rahul Titus, head of influence, Ogilvy, thank you so much for your insights and for your time today. I think in the background, there are some birds tweeting and I just want to remind listeners that you're talking from Bangalore. I'm in South London, but you're a much more tropical environ.

Rahul Titus  43:28

I am I actually came home for Christmas and given how much of a mess the UK is and just decided to stay back and welcome India. So I mean, it was a privilege to have birds chirping , as well as all the traffic in the background.

Scott Guthrie  43:41

We didn't hear the traffic. But thank you very much for sharing the birdsong that made my morning Raul Titus, thank you very much for your time today.

Rahul Titus  43:49

Thank you, Scott. Really appreciate your time.

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.

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