The 90’s gave us Supermodels the 2010’s have given us the Digital Influencer.
Way back in 1992 I finished Secondary School. Without a clue as to what I wanted to do for the rest of my life I enrolled at Oxford College of Further Education on a Business Studies course. I thought it would give me a general grounding in the world of business and over the two years I might have developed an interest in one specific area. That I could then go on to University to specialise in.
In didn’t quite turn out that way, but that’s how life is for many of us. I remember being bored to tears in accounts classes. Enjoying but not enthused by Law. After all criminal law is where the fun is to be had. Contracts and tort doesn’t quite stir up the same excitement!
But Marketing, more specifically advertising really got my interest. It showed too. One of the few classes I passed with distinction. Perhaps it was because outside in the world advertising was centre stage.
Had been around in the 80’s but the 90’s was when they hit the heights. They burst from the catwalks and covers of Vogue and into popular culture. Talk shows, special guest appearances on TV shows and movies were where you found them after the shows and modelling shoots were finished. They signed million dollar deals with fashion houses and brands.
There was a select group. Only five, became six when Kate Moss embodied herion chic, could truly claim to be Supermodels.
They were helped by the creatives at the biggest and best ad agencies in the world. Saatchi and Saatchi, KPMG, J Walter Thompson. Names I know now long after I studied them. As well as being photographed by the best in the business.
I harboured brief dreams of becoming a male Supermodel myself.
Was also at it’s best. Multi channel TV had arrived. Hundreds of channels beamed via satellite and transmitted via cables beneath our streets. Each agency and brand trying to create and foster the desire to own whatever their client was selling.
From jeans to aftershave. Trainers to sunglasses. They all sold us the dream we could have that lifestyle and get the girl if we owned what they were selling.
Unlike many people I enjoy watching the ads. There were some memorable ones. Guiness with the horses running on the waves. Renault with Nicole and Papa advertising the Clio. Budweiser and the Wasssup campaign. All memorable in their own right.
It wasn’t just TV. Print and poster ads had us too. The Calvin Klein underwear campaign with Marky Mark and Kate Moss, was known worldwide.
Helen of Troy may have been the face that launched a thousand ships, but those creatives and models sold millions of products.
The Digital World
In the digital world we stream our programmes via Netflix and Amazon ad free. We read our news via digital magazines and on social media. Instead of leafing through old copies of Vogue and Esquire in the hairdressers we scroll Instagram and Facebook. Our feeds dominated by Influencers. It seems that anyone with a smartphone and social media profiles can become a digital influencer these days. The problem with this is that with a model we know they are being paid and ad space has been bought. We might fall for the message and buy the products. With a Digital Influencer we have no such knowledge. Is it an #ad is it #gifted or is it just something they use and want to tell us about it?
Who is an Influencer?
Obviously there are some higher up the pecking order. A Kardashian can command much more for one instagram post than many others will make in a year. Then again Kim Kardashian West has 111 million followers.
Similar to the Supermodels on billboards, we know they are being paid to showcase these products.
Perhaps this is why it is so appealing to so many. They think a few clicks of a smartphone camera, apply a filter or two and before long they too will be commanding high fees. Is anyone who uses digital media to promote products or services in exchange for payment an influencer?
You Tubers are now household names. Ryan’s Toy Reviews is one of THE most watched channels. He makes millions every year. My children know more Tubers than they know actors.
The Problem with Influencers
As an industry it is fairly unregulated. Leading to some to abuse the system. Buying followers, exaggerated claims, photo shopping pictures and promoting products they don’t use or care about. Is this any worse than a footballer promoting Pepsi but drinking Coke?
Provided we look at what digital influencers really are. Adverts. Living breathing adverts. Their job is to sell a dream. It could be the lifestyle, the car or the Insta Perfect Home! The problem is that in many cases they are ordinary people.
What do you think are the Digital Influencers the supermodels of our time? Paid large sums just to sell us dreams?