Casting the net wide and deep: Why brands are opting for influencer led TVCs

The Internet gave them wings, but their flight has reached television audiences. Web influencers are slowly becoming a part of everyday campaigns that we see on TV. Till date, brands have been most keen on tapping content creators on YouTube for their commercials as these influencers release content regularly and have a dedicated following in the millions. YouTube has revealed that there are over 1,200 channels in India which have a 1 million+ following, opening up an enormous pool for brands to pick from.

“The core of any marketing and communication exercise is to influence. Now, if you have a readymade base of proven influencers in a certain category is a no brainer to go for it. So far, people were using these online influencers on social channels only, but the results are so motivating for a lot of brands, now they have started using them on TVCs”, said Anjan Prasad, Founder & CEO of Noboru World, in response to a question on Quora related to ‘How are brands using online influencers in TV commercials?’.

That’s why we see digital first brands like WhatsApp rope in an influencer like Prajakta Koli (MostlySane) for their maiden ad campaign to strike a true chord with netizens.

Authentic communication could be seen as another reason, why brands tend to pick celebrity influencers as “sometimes celeb endorsers tend to be a little overexposed,” according to Neeraj Kanitkar, Senior Creative Director, Taproot Dentsu.

“With social media influencers, you have the benefit of both depth and width. Width in terms of simply having far more options and depth in terms of being able to deploy influencers who might be the ideal fit for brands or categories, which may be niche but have a dedicated following,” he added.

In the Cadbury Fuse advertisement, you can see prominent cricketers Yuraj Singh and Rohit Sharma mix in with Shayan Roy, a video producer at Buzzfeed. Why is Roy considered an influencer?, one may ask. Well, 39 per cent of active Instagram accounts have over 15K followers are considered influencers and marketers have admitted that they are able to tap their target audience better by working with them.

On the web, where share of voice is democratised for the most part, these web influencers can give celebrities a run for their money in terms of followers. While A-listers still have a formidable audience base on social media platforms, influencers creative use of these platforms has helped make them a part of daily conversation. Whether it is the Reptile of Kurla memes, the latest BB Ki Vines sketch or a stand-up comedy clip that has gone viral, the Trending button on YouTube is reflective of what drives conversation amongst the youth of today.

“There was a time when the only judgement criterion was the follower count, but engagement plays an equal to bigger role in making these choices now,” pointed out Nandini Shenoy, CEO & Founder of PinkVilla.

Not to mention, the cost of roping in an influencer is far more performance-oriented than signing a celebrity endorser. Shenoy said, “A lot of brands have now started factoring in a CPV (Cost per View) while evaluating quotes from digital influencers, bringing RoI into the equation. They usually keep a set benchmark for the CPV and will not pick up an influencer unless the CPV comes out within the set range.”

That’s why you might not always see the big-name influencers on commercials, but if you recognise the face, you are the target audience the communication is aimed towards.

Taproot’s Kanitkar explained, “With social media influencers, you have the benefit of both depth and width. Width in terms of simply having far more options and depth in terms of being able to deploy influencers who might be the ideal fit for brands or categories, which may be niche but have a dedicated following.”

Often the most authentic aspect is that these influencers don’t even have to act! Parts that are written for influencers in commercials are often an extension of their web personalities. They don’t behave any differently on television than they do with their digital audience every day. Thus, relatability becomes the biggest factor to keep in mind when leveraging web influencers.

However, it isn’t all hunky dory as influencers may fall out of favour and haven’t proven to be as resilient to negative perception. Writer and comedian Tanmay Bhatt, who was roped in for Taco Bell’s #MakePotatoGreatAgain campaign and was one of the most well-known influencers on digital platform, has faced severe criticism on his inaction over the sexual harassment allegations against his colleague during the #MeToo backlash.

“Unless the brand is specifically taking a political or a partisan stand and is prepared for the inevitable backlash, one could possibly avoid prominent influencers who are known for their politics. Remember, the baggage of the influencer does tend to become attached to the brand,” noted Kanitkar.

“Choosing bigger names while not factoring in the relevance of a particular influencer to the brand story, not taking into account the engagement level and solely depending on the follower count, not choosing the right platform for your brand and making the influencer post look like a blatant advertisement” are the key factors that defeat the whole purpose of relatability, reasoned Pinkvilla’s Shenoy.


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