Is programmatic problematic for influencers?

If there’s one word on the lips of ad-buying professionals the world wide web over, it’s programmatic. Set to grow by 31% in 2017, the clever wizardry of automatic bidding has already started to transform the way brands buy and sell media space, with 70% display advertising in the UK now finding its due home online through the method - cutting costs, time, and the room for human error.    

Not content with dominating the pay-per-click sphere, however, programmatic progression has its sights set on influencer marketing, with a plethora of new organisations slowly emerging that offer the same fundamental technology for outreach purposes. Working on a tick-box matchmaking model, the new range of services work by sending pre-created content to influencers who meet brand-set criteria offering an exchange of publishing for payment, usually without a single human engagement. 

It’s hardly surprising there’s a lure for a less manual way of seeking personalities; with 86% marketers now using (or considering using) influencers in their campaigns, finding the right ones is a main challenge for 75% of companies. However, taking away the human comes with its own inherent issues. By treating influencers as advert space rather than genuine, valued relationships, are we at risk of losing the very reason they worked in the first place? Worse still, are we confusing the actual power to sway opinions with popularity?  

We all know traditional advertising doesn’t have the same lure on consumers that it once did; only 1% millennials believe a compelling advert encourages them to buy and there’s been a 43% growth in the use of ad-blockers year-on-year, with e-marketer predicting that 27% UK internet users – a total of 14.7 million people - will be utilising one by the end of 2017. Add to this algorithms that favour high engagement rates on social media and the necessity of proper targeting in content, and it’s enough to get the sweat going when plotting how 2017 campaigns will fall.

Quicker, more powerful, and able to run 24/7, programmatic seems an ideal solution to finding efficient ways of reaching audiences in marketing activity. But our need for easier targeting comes precisely at a time when consumers are actively admitting they don’t want to be sold to, and seems to jar with the very reason many have opted for influencer marketing in the first place. Unlike brand-led promotion, influencers work as a way to cut through the advertising noise; providing genuine recommendations that are trustworthy and never forced. 

Automation brings with it a risk of trading authenticity for advertising space, and there’s an interesting irony in the fact that 41% of those who use ad-blockers say they found out about them through word of mouth. If we carry on treating early-adopters in the same way as the adverts other influencers are telling people how to get rid of, we’re at risk of seeing the entire tactic heading in the same direction; with more viewers turning off and finding ways of getting rid of messages.  

Back in the 60s, advertising king-pin Howard Luck Gossage famously said “nobody reads ads. People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad”. While the platforms we put our story through might have changed, the sentiment hasn’t; it’s not the advertising space (or influencer account) that’s important so much as the relevancy and fitting of the message in that particular spot. Automation can never beat authenticity and, like a front page story or prime-time TV slot, influencers aren’t a space that can be filled without targeted content worthy of the space. 

Want to make sure your influencer campaign stands out for the right reason in 2017? Read our thoughts.

Programmatic Marketing for Influencers

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