FTC Announces Settlement Over Influencer Campaign for Xbox One

Thanks to Gonzalo Mon of Kelley Drye & Warren LLC for flagging this story. It’s a really important one for those thinking they can get away with paying for endorsements without telling their public.  I hope the pay-for-play blogger companies take note.

“In January 2014, AdAge interviewed me about news reports that Machinima had hired influencers to create videos promoting Microsoft’s Xbox One gaming console and games. In a native advertising campaign, the influencers posted positive reviews, but didn’t disclose that they had been paid to do so. During the interview, we speculated about whether the FTC might take action against the campaign and what the result might be. Now, almost 20 months later, we have the answer. This week, the FTC announced a settlement with Machinima.

According the to the FTC, Machinima, the operator of a popular YouTube network, paid two influential gaming bloggers to create videos promoting the new Xbox One console and three new games, but didn’t require the bloggers to disclose that they were paid for the reviews. The bloggers posted four videos that had more than 1.6 million views. To capitalize on this success, Machinima later recruited and paid more people to upload positive reviews, again without requiring a disclosure. This generated another 300 videos and 30 million views in a five-week period.

If you follow our blog, you can already guess the problem. As Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said: “When people see a product touted online, they have a right to know whether they’re looking at an authentic opinion or a paid marketing pitch. That’s true whether the endorsement appears in a video or any other media.” Under the proposed settlement, Machinima is required to ensure its influencers clearly disclose when they have been compensated in exchange for their endorsements.”

For Gonzalo’s original story go to:


And here’s the original AdAge story:


Our new InfluencerCommunities subscription service

InfluencerCommunities.com, Influencer Communities, Influencer50, Nick Hayes, The Buyerside Journey.comWe’ve recently launched our new InfluencerCommunities subscription service. Here’s why. There’s a massive disconnect between the importance of an industry sector’s most important influencer communities, both online & offline, and the attention paid to them by vendors’ marketing depts.

According to InformationWeek, special interest communities featured in the top five most likely sources of vendor information for prospective purchasers (both at initial problem scoping and at vendor choice stages).

And while over three-quarters of B2B industry marketing heads rate their industry sector’s main forums & communities (both online and offline) as very important in influencing their prospects, less than one-third are confident their company has ongoing, proactive relationships with those top communities.

So companies really need to know which online & offline communities are the most influential in their sector. Which they should monitor, which to ignore and which maybe to join. Where are their industry’s most important conversations going on and who’s instigating them?

And it’s not just about which communities have the most members. Are their members those people moving & shaking the sector or are they just … followers? Which of their sector’s top influencers are members? And what should they do to engage with those people once they’ve identified the most important ones?

Our new Influencer Communities subscription service answers all of the above and more. We expect it to become one of our most popular services.



‘Hatching Twitter’ by the NYT’s Nick Bilton


Just finished reading the 2013 book ‘Hatching Twitter’ by Nick Bilton of the The New York Times. It reads like a novel but is actually an account of the first five years of Twitter – from its earliest days inside the podcasting startup Odeo to the 2011 arrival of Dick Costolo as CEO.

I thought I’d followed the inside story of Twitter closely enough at the time it was happening, but I had no idea what really went on inside the company. I assumed the founders had amicably left to pursue other startups. I thought there were three founders not four. And I thought they were largely left alone to develop Twitter as they wanted. I was wrong on all counts. Assume that every time we read of the top roles being voluntarily reshuffled there was treachery and a bloody coup behind each move. Fascinating to read what really went on. Highly recommended.

Google’s ‘Winning the Zero Moment of Truth’ – with mobile, more relevant today than ever

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 7.02.49 AMThinking about how the customer journey is changing as buyers increasingly move to their mobile phones, I’m brought back to Google’s Jim Lecinski’s ‘Winning the Zero Moment of Truth’ 2011 eBook.

The title comes from Proctor & Gamble’s analysis that they have to win the ‘First’ moment of truth – when the consumer first sees the array of goods in a supermarket and has to decide which to choose – plus the ‘Second’ moment – when the buyer takes their choice home, uses the product and decides from their experience whether they’re happy with the choice they made. Google then added a ‘Zero’ moment – the initial online search for that product or product category.

Over the past few days I’ve re-read the eBook and think few companies even now have caught up with the insights uncovered within it.

I’d 100% recommend you to download it from Google’s site if you haven’t a copy already.



Ogilvy’s Christopher Graves: Genuine Influence can’t be bought

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 7.50.20 AMIt’s easy to glaze over when we all read the word ‘influence’ one more time. I see so many brainless articles on the subject. So this story, in PR Week of all places, jumped out yesterday. At last – someone talking sense on the subject.

Here’s a flavor:

“The very word ‘influence’ is being thrown around in many contexts and some completely abuse the real meaning or conflate it with popularity.

Real influence means to convince someone to choose to do something on their own—without threatening them or bribing them—which they would not otherwise have done. That’s much tougher to come by. It is earned through sustained relationships, and not fleeting or dependent on compensation.

Influence is a demonstrable chain of persuasion from person to person leading to new attitudes and behaviour. Having a large audience does not necessarily mean wielding influence. Views and likes are not measures of influence though they may correlate or be coincidental.”

Thanks to PR Week and Christopher Graves, Global Chairman of Ogilvy Public Relations. I couldn’t agree more.





Why aren’t in-house vendors & brands talking about their Influencer Programs?

How come we rarely hear from the brands themselves about the success of their Influencer Programs? Rarely a day goes past I don’t hear or read of marketing agencies touting their skills at working with ‘influencers’, of successes achieved or local awards secured. Many of these stories come with the flimsiest of evidence – mid-range bloggers saying how thrilled they were to work with the brand, a regional magazine writing a fluff-piece about a local agency, or the agency itself spinning numbers of ‘passionate brand advocates’ they’ve engaged with. But rarely do the brands themselves do the talking.

Are they just too busy? – maybe, do they not want to tout figures for reasons of commercial advantage? – maybe also, or perhaps the agencies are just more motivated to shout their perceived successes. All I’m sure are a factor but I think it’s primarily something else.

I think the metrics agencies are working towards just aren’t the same ones that the brands are. The agencies may well be satisfied with seeing a rise in fans, retweets, impacts and OtS (opportunities to see). But this isn’t enough for the brands. The C-level execs running them know these measures aren’t strong enough to bring in new customers, or even move new prospects far along the pipeline.

Until they can tie those important measures into their influencer programs I think they’ll be staying quiet.

Are brands getting what they intend when they pay their ‘social influencers’?

pay-for-play blogger

I don’t have big numbers to share. I have five anecdotal conversations – each with a CMO, or equivalent, of organizations ranging from $35m to just shy of $1bn revenue. Here’s the first. There’ll be more to follow.

This East Coast marketing chief paid $9,000 in total to get five bloggers to write two blog posts and a minimum of four tweets over a four-week period about their supposed adoption of a new tablet accessory. These tweets were then re-published as part of the vendor’s launch invite activities. Each blogger then attended the San Francisco launch earlier this year. That’s approx. $1800 each person.

Was it worth it? The marketing head, who’d identified the bloggers through a ‘social influencer’ database provider, was initially “ok with it, though we’d already known two of the five so we could have approached them direct. We’d have preferred to work with independent bloggers who didn’t need payment, but we were told most did, so we went along with it.”

“It felt a commercial arrangement throughout, with them having all creative control. That was a surprise. It felt like it was all give from us. The upside was that all four turned up at our launch, it wasn’t obvious to anyone else we were paying for them, and we could use their endorsements in our web ads. Financially it wasn’t a bad return for us, but I’ll definitely read their future posts with a lot more skepticism than before. I’ll always wonder if they’ve taken a payment to write about what they have.”

“Going forward we’ll all need banking, but will we need banks?” Brett King’s Bank 3.0 paints a compelling picture.

Bank 3.0. Influencers, Buyerside Journey

Took me a while but I’ve just finished Bank 3.0 by Brett King. Sounds the dullest subject in the world but the book was captivating. I couldn’t recommend it more. It expands – in great detail – on the Bill Gates’ quote from a few years ago, “Going forward we’ll all need banking, but will we need banks?”

The book analyses what consumers increasingly want from their banking – and how, as a result, the vast majority of banks are in danger of now losing their customer mindshare to the Apple’s, Google’s and PayPal’s of this world. It also questions why banks are so intent on defending their branch strategy, often at enormous cost, when their customers would be better served if that investment were directed to their mobile banking apps.

For those interested in how we’ll all manage our finances in future, New York-based Brett King paints a compelling picture. For the traditional retail banks, it’s a frightening one. This book alone must be driving up the value of the emerging challenger banks such as Atom and Starling.

You can pick & choose which influencers to engage with, but not which influencers exist.

A few months back we were talking with a prospective Identification Program client. After a ten minute explanation of our methodology I was asked if we really had to include a number of influencers who the client wasn’t personally interested in. We were asked to ignore any competitors, anyone considered ‘out of reach for marketing purposes’ and any already being engaged with. Could we not discard anyone ‘untouchable’ by their marketing outreach? What we were really being asked for were the names of only the lowest hanging fruit, those most likely to be available for partnerships. The ones who would sign-up to ‘pay for play’.

I had to explain that while we have no issue with our clients subsequently prioritising those people, our original research has to include all those genuinely influencing their marketplace, whether they like the prospect of those individuals or not. The client didn’t appreciate my answer. The more I thought about it, I didn’t appreciate their question. We both agreed we weren’t a good fit for their needs.

They’d be an ideal fit for the blogger influencer peddlers.

India’s time to provide the momentum in Influencer Marketing?

IMIR logo

Reviewing the applications to join the Influencer Marketing & Influencer Relations LinkedIn group we’ve seen that 31 of our most recent 100 applications have been from individuals in India. Typically we’d expect no more than 10%. Is this just a quirk or is this the year of India really getting to grips with its market influencers? Or has something else happened to create the groundswell there?

And looking at the organizations those individuals are from, it’s clear they’re some of India’s largest global and multi-nationals – in utilities, tech, engineering and auto manufacturing.

Continuing to look at the geographies involved, the majority of applicants were from the most expected regions – led by the US, UK, Germany, India, France, Singapore, Canada, Spain, Sweden, and Brazil.  No great surprise there.

But what was most interesting was which countries weren’t applying. Japan, Australia, China. Leaving aside the obvious language barriers for Japan and China I’m wondering why Australia is so quiet on the topic? It has a common language, a mature B2B and B2C marketplace, and no shortage of marketing skills. LinkedIn is popular there.

So why so few interested applicants?