As a brand, if you want to control the message, buy an ad. With an ad you can write the copy, craft the message, dictate the image that is used and control where and when the message is seen.

Don’t handcuff the messenger

Of course, consumers know that you are controlling the message. They know that the brand is managing every aspect of the advert and that it lacks authenticity. Adverts are, almost without exception, self-interested. No one creates an advert highlighting the short-comings of their product of service.

And yet brands and their agencies constantly talk about striving for ‘authenticity’. The latest manifestation of that is influencer marketing. But the issue is not the channel. It is the brand – and their agency’s – approach.

In a piece today in City AM, the founder and CEO of a new agency, set up to help brands find influencers on YouTube, talked about the importance of being authentic. But then went on to say that they work on “controlling the final message.”

This is a perfect example of where authenticity is sacrificed at the alter of control.

Influencers are not just another channel

Brands need to understand that the people they are trying to reach are incredibly perceptive. They know when a brand is looking at influencers as simply another channel and if a brand is focussed on “controlling the final message” they will not work with the influencers who are really having an impact – those influencers value the relationships they have with their audiences too much to allow an agency to dictate what they say. And why would an agency want to do that anyway? If authenticity is the goal, trying to constrain the messenger is completely counter-productive.

Instead brands need to work with influencers, giving them the opportunity to see the value of the brand’s products or services for their audience and talk about it in the way they want to.

Advertising is losing its power. Influence now resides with people who have worked hard to engage with audiences that they see as their friends. If you want to work with an influencer, you should be prepared to relinquish power. That is where the real benefits are.


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