The New Star Power: How Brands Are Handing “The Power” to Influencers and Micro-Influencers

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As early as the 1800’s, products advertised using spokespeople, a.k.a influencers. At that time, “celebrity” endorsers were often authors. Mark Twain was one of the first, associating his name and face to cigars, whiskey, clothing, shaving accessories, and fountain pens. Imagine if Mark Twain had an Instagram, maybe it would look something like Logan Paul’s feed, he’d be raking in the big bucks.

Starting in the 1920’s and into the 1970’s, it became increasingly popular for brands to grab endorsements for products such as tobacco, beverages and clothing.

Advertisement taken from a caricature by Frederick Waddy first published in 1872. Mark Twain Papers, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

It was only around the 1980’s that brands began looking at celebrities and endorsement marketing in a new way. This era grew “endorsers”, allowing brands to focus on building products for influential individuals, as a way to hype them up before selling them to the public. An early adopter of the new influencer movement is still one of the biggest and baddest. Nike and Michael Jordan teamed up to design the timeless Jordan sneaker that are still worn and coveted to this day. The line outside Foot Locker at 3 a.m. for the new Jordan release is still an unbelievable sight to see.

These collaborations were just the beginning, serving as a natural launching pad to various commercial opportunities and influencer deals in the 1990’s. The 90’s cemented the idea that every company needs an endorser or influencer to act as the face or the voice for their brand. Whenever I think about grabbing a bottle of water before a Tone House NYC class, I think of Jennifer Aniston with a bottle of Smart Water on a Digital Urban Panel.

No one uses OOH’s canvases as well as Calvin Klein for influencer collaborations. Way before my time, 15 year-old Brooke Shields delivered the famous line “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing”, was immortalized on a huge Time Square billboard. Next up, Kate Moss and Marky Mark – major superstars in both the fashion and music world — strutting around in their Calvin Klein Jeans. The campaign instantly drove the brand to new heights by making it a “cool” symbol of youth and “street style” attracting everyone from Fifth Avenue moms to teenage skaters. Calvin Klein continues to stay relevant in the new millennium, attracting the names and faces of Justin Bieber, Kendall Jenner, Fetty Wap, and more. But now, extending their brand from billboards to TV to social media, Calvin Klein encourages their consumers to share what they do in their own Calvin’s using the hashtag #InMyCalvins across all social channels. They are having the public create Calvin Klein content.

Out-of-home is giving the everyday social media user a chance to be an influencer in their own right. Someone with 300 followers, has the same opportunity as someone with 10 million followers.

OOH gives everyone a chance to gain earned media impressions and spread an ad’s influence beyond the physical ad itself.

OOH ads can help tap into this consumer as well. With OOH you know where your ad will land, and that it is resistant to scroll past and ad blocking. According to Inc., thanks to ad blocking software, $12 billion in online ad revenue is projected to be lost by 2020. This leaves OOH at a huge advantage, because no one can block us, this content can live ‘In Real Life’ on OOH canvases, extending to social endorsements by millions.

Today, every big brand has multiple spokespeople with various levels of influence — one to reach the young mom, the cool teen, and the fitness enthusiast. Brands want access to gain consumers trust, now they can connect the power of influencers to do so. The Kansas City Royals (MLB) and its players, are known for using their OOH in more ways than one. Yes, it is amazing branding but they do it in a non advertising way by having fans post selfies in front of the board to win tickets, or send in photos to get their pictures featured on the digital billboards.

Influencers can act in two ways –like traditional spokespeople or organically in their own style. OOH amplifies social influence by broadening scale, reach and fame. Providing additional visual content for a social push or beyond. Bella Hadid comes across her billboard and naturally takes a photo and posts it. Or like Diddy, driving by his billboard and recording a video of himself going by hanging out the window screaming “Look Ma’, I made it!” and two days later having a drone capture the billboard. A man worth just under $1 billion has “made it” because he is on a billboard in Hollywood. The new selfie for celebrities and models, is taking a selfie in front of their own larger than life image. Unpaid, on their own time, in their own voice.

Credit: Bella Hadid Instagram
Credit: Diddy Instagram

Steve Ellis, the CEO of WHOSAY, the largest and most trusted influence marketing company in the world, summarized it like this:

“The battle for digital ad scale is over and there are only three winners, Facebook, Google and Amazon. Outside of digital, out of home provides a unique, non web-based way to create real awareness nationally, regionally and locally in a way that none of those digital platforms can really disrupt.

It’s no surprise that all the big digital winners are using out of home to market their consumer products. It works.”

Credit: OUTFRONT Media

Media impressions are hard to earn, but real-life ads in the right locations, with creative that jumps out in a larger than life format, naturally cues influencers to pay attention to them and subsequently share the images with their followers.

From billboards on the side of a highway, bus shelters in Los Angeles and Atlanta, to the biggest billboards in New York City, OOH gives everyone a chance to gain earned media impressions and spread an ad’s influence beyond the physical ad itself.

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