Christopher Henley manages and runs the Influencer Marketing Show and the inaugural Influencer Marketing Awards which take place in London the 22nd and 23rd of October this year. He also has input into the delegate acquisition side of operations and as such speaks to brands from around the globe as well and the many agencies and platforms within
He is originally from the hospitality industry and having used content creators 9 years ago to promote a new restaurant he was the manager of in Bristol he has seen how things have drastically changed within the industry. His wife is a content creator and as such sees things from a creator perspective on a frequent basis. You can find Christopher on both LinkedIn and Twitter.
1:35 Chris introduces himself, The Influencer Marketing Show and The Influencer Marketing Awards.
5:04 Chris talks about this year’s Influencer Marketing Show and what he has planned.
7:12 The use of technology in influencer marketing.
8:57 The growing use of CGI influencers.
13:32 Why influencer marketing and performance marketing go together.
15:31 The current state and evolution of influencer marketing.
17:16 Influencer fraud.
19:05 Brands ahead of the curve in influencer marketing.
22:47 Chris’s predictions on the future of influencer marketing.
27:12 The one book Chris recommends everyone should read.
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Ste Davies: Chris, welcome to the podcast.
Chris Henley: Evening, Stephen, how are you?
SD: I’m really good, thanks. I’m glad we got to do this because we’ve been planning it for a couple of weeks.
CH: Yes, we’ve both been incredibly busy so thank you for being incredibly patient.
SD: My pleasure, my pleasure. So, to kick off with can you give us some background about yourself, The Influencer Marketing Show you’re involved in and also The Influencer Marketing Awards and what your role is there?
CH: Indeed, my background is predominantly hospitality. I did that at university and worked in a range of hotels and really enjoyed the events scene like conference, banqueting and weddings.
I did that for a few years then went into the restaurant industry and that’s my first experience of influencer marketing. We used to invite them along to openings of restaurants and what have you. I got fed up with the hours because they’re shocking working within that industry so decided to work for the company here where I manage and run The Influencer Marketing Show and The Influencer Marketing Awards.
My role is split. I obviously speak to agencies, platforms and the tech providers to find out more about what they’re doing in the industry. And help them have a presence at the events, whether that’s speaking or sponsorship. I also like to find out what they do within the influencer marketing industry as it gives me that insight as to what’s happening.
Another massive responsibility I have is the delegate acquisition. So it’s my responsibility to speak with senior management in a wide range of companies around the globe and invite them to the events. These are paid-for events as well so when people come they are there to network with the right people so it’s a win/win because I get to hear what senior management want and I also get to hear from the relevant influencer marketing agencies and platforms and find out what they want and then tie them all together so it’s a good combination.
SD: Speaking about what they want, what do they want on both sides?
CH: Education is really the key thing and I think that’s going to be the same thing going forward this year. You speak to somebody who does a lot of influencer marketing from Loreal, Mont Blanc or somebody a lot smaller and they all are aware of the issues this industry has but they all have very different ways of tackling that.
Of course that’s down to the product and pricing but it’s having all these people under one roof to discuss how they’ve tackled this industry, how to overcome the hurdles and their plans for next year. It seems to change all the time. The plans for the show this year and in progress as we speak which is very exciting but again education is key because it’s still such a new industry that’ll be the same for the next year I think.
SD: Right, so there’s a big education going on at the moment and you think there are still a lot of brands still need that education piece?
CH: Massively. We’ve all heard of some of the issues whether that’s influencers with fake followings or fake engagement. Obviously that’s still lingering. There’s still a lot of the old guard, the old school, some of the agencies that don’t necessarily tackle influencer marketing. They’re a bit fearful of it, don’t know how to do it and therefore don’t like it, if I’m honest with you.
Also, the common questions around, is it measurable and is it performance based? Can I hit certain KPIs and inevitably get investment from it? And these are all questions that need to be answered.
SD: So when and where is this year’s Influencer Marketing Awards?
CH: It’s the last year we hold at Old Billingsgate near the Shard. It takes place on the 22nd and 23rd of October. It’s a beautiful venue but it’s the last time we’re going to be there simply because of the size and there is so much interest in this we’ll have to move onto a bigger venue.
It runs alongside another we run as well called PI Live which is incredibly relevant because PI Live is about performance marketing so the fact they both run alongside each is, some would say, somewhat quite ironic really.
We’ve implemented workshops and some of the feedback I’ve received from people last year was that speaking sessions weren’t sufficient and they actually wanted to get hands-on with some of these platforms and agencies to find out really how it works and actually pose questions in a close-knit environment instead of a theatre full of hundreds of delegates as well.
Another thing I have planned for this year is CGI influencers which comes up more in conversations recently which I think is
The gaming sector as well is another area as well that will have a big presence at the awards. More and more brands who you might not think should be involved in that space are wanting to get involved. I’m actually hoping to have a gamer come along and chat to the delegates which could be quite interesting.
Should be fun. A lot of education, a lot of networking and common sharing in the industry to discuss how we can best improve this exciting area of marketing.
SD: Cool, so a few questions on that. You mentioned there’s an education piece and a lot of people that come along want that small group with a hands-on approach, that practical approach and learning how to use the various and so on. Why is that? Is it reflective of the way the industry is at the moment and they just need that technical skill and know-how?
CH: It’s really quite split. With the large companies that attend, they’re incredibly competent when it comes to influencer marketing and some of the reasons why they attend the show is to find out what else is out there. They want to sit down with a particular CEO of an agency and really get down to the nitty gritty of how it all works and that can’t just be done speaking to someone at a stand or hearing from them when they present in the theatre. They want to see it and visualise it and see how it could maybe run in their business and from there maybe then speak to someone on the stand and take the conversations to email.
I’ve also noticed that smaller companies are getting involved. I’m in talks with the FSB in the UK with regards to smaller companies who have not really considered using an agency or platform and may have done it themselves. I say to those, “Look this is how this agency works and you can see the benefits that come with it” especially in a workshop rather than a theatre.
SD: You touched on CGI influencers and I think I’ve seen you tweet about them occasionally as well. It seems like there’s an opportunity as you say for the younger generation because they seem to be lapping up these computer-generated influencers and from a software development point of view, if you can create one of these CGI influencers that can get brand deals, music deals and so on then you’re quids in because 1. you don’t have to pay them and 2. they’re not going to get drunk in a nightclub and get into a fight so there’s all these benefits, so where do you think we’re at with CGI influencers?
CH: Like myself and I think maybe even your good self and some of your listeners, I think there are still questions to be had around just how it would work. Such as the ethics and whether people would relate to them. People follow content creators for a multitude of different readers and I can only touch on why I follow them and it’s obviously an interest and I relate to them. If they’re promoting a car I can see the product and see how it fits into my lifestyle. Or I’m interested and intrigued so to have a CGI avatar in essence promote or market a service or good is going to be interesting.
How are they going to be controlled or managed from an ASA point of view? It’s going to be interesting looking at whether the agencies using these CGI influencers are only going to be the large companies? How do you design the avatar? Will it be done be done by the agency or the company managing the CGI side of things as well.
What I found is that people want something in one place where they can look at the stats, look at the benchmarks and communicate with content creators. With a CGI influencer they’ve then got to design an avatar and it will be interesting to see how much time it takes and how that’s done. I’m fully aware there are people who are clearly more knowledgable on that area and I think there are still questions to be had and it’s one of the reasons why I really want a particular person in mind be at the event because there are so many questions and he has that information. Incredibly exciting that it’s grown and nobody knows what’s going to happen down the line and who knows in the next something new could happen so it’s an exciting time to be in it.
SD: Exactly, so how many Influencer Marketing Shows have you had? I know it’s the first of the awards, right?
CH: Indeed. So from a show point of view, this show will be our third. The first show was predominantly content oriented. It was a couple of years ago and we weren’t really sure how that was going to go really. The company as a whole is involved in performance marketing, affiliate marketing, paid search and everything surrounding that. We were blown away by the interest of influencer marketing.
The topic of influencer marketing kept on coming up and up and that was my transition into influencer marketing because I kept on hearing these questions and it’s something I wanted to jump on and control in the company. It’s our third year and in our second year we had circa 15 exhibiters and a case study orientated theatre which Whaler managed.
This year it’s grown even more now so we have two floors and workshops and I think it’s the UK’s largest theatre dedicated to influencer marketing which is nice as well and more sectors being involved as well. It’s a fun, engaging and information-packed two days with circa 3,000 delegates as well.
SD: Wow! Touching on performance marketing also. It seems like influencer marketing and performance marketing are perfect for each other. If an influencer can buy into a product that they believe in and use, they can make a commission on recommending that product it work well for both.
CH: Yes I completely agree. One of things that comes up in conversation quite often is if I want the Influencer Marketing Show to run on its own as it got to that size and I would say probably it could do it on its own. Do I want it to be? Currently no and I think the reasons for me stating that is I think the synergy between both industries is only going to get stronger.
Unfortunately and I think even in 2020 people will still have the miseducation that they can’t get any KPIs from it and it doesn’t hit any benchmarks so the fact it’s run alongside a show dedicated to performance has some relevance. Inevitably some of the large affiliate networks that have a presence at the show like Awin, Rakuten, Trade Doubler, WebGains, they’re all big in influencer marketing and run a lot of influencer marketing campaigns. And like you said Ste content creators are using affiliate marketing as a way to improve their revenue streams as well so I think it’s a good combination and it’s a conversation I’ll have with my MD down the line but I’ll like them to stay side by side personally.
SD: I don’t know if you’ve noticed but Amazon seem to be doing a big push into Influencer Marketing recently too and launched their own influencer platform. I occasionally get emails from them asking me to promote their products on my own page. Have you noticed that?
CH: Yeah we had members of the Amazon team at the show last year from a delegate perspective. Not surprised really, they’re a progressive company and I think it’s going to grow in other companies as well and I’m also aware of the likes of Tesco and Asda wanting influencers not just to promote the groceries but the banking, insurance and other services they have on offer. It’s exciting and who knows what the future holds.
SD: With your experience, where do you think we’re currently at with the evolution of influencer marketing? Still early days?
CH: Speaking in my experience in the last few years it’s come on leaps and bounds which has had some very negative effects. Because it’s happened so quickly there’s inevitably going to be issues along the way, so to speak, but I think we’re still touching the surface and I think going forward the areas around the fraud issues need to be smoothed out and I believe the platforms need to improve in certain areas to help that. I’m aware that Instagram and Twitter have done things to improve it but there’s certainly more they can do on that front as well.
Again with these new things coming out with the gaming and the virtual influencers I just think we’ve only touched the surface and I think the future is very bright.
SD: I think so too. I think the technology will develop and we’ll be able to get a handle on who the fraudulent influencers are and who aren’t and I think the performance technology will get better. I mean, even on Instagram, you go on H&M’s page and you can buy a t-shirt practically in a couple of taps of your screen. Even if it’s a global H&M account and let’s say it’s a man’s t-shirt you can click on ‘buy this’ and it will geolocate you and send you to the H&M UK site where you can buy directly from there. So that technology is only going to get better and tracking it will only get better as well.
CH: Yes it’s a little scary isn’t but also very exciting. I think it’s also quite important and I’ve brought it up a few times about the fraudulent side of this industry and the fake followers. I’m personally aware of people that maybe been in a relationship and their previous partners had affected their followers so to speak and the content creators have had nothing to do with it and maybe not even realised because it’s been drip fed over a period of time so I do think before we name and shame content creators we need to do a deep dive and actually ascertain was it them.
Also for example someone at the age of 12 for argument’s sake has bought followers that at the age of 30 it should necessarily affect them if they have passion in the industry and have built up followers since then and have been completely authentic, I think there’s more digging to do in that area personally.
SD: That’s a good point you make actually and I’ve never considered that. It’s a bit like when people resurface someone’s tweets from ten years ago and a certain person will get accused of this, that and the other thing. From an influencer point of view we might look back years ago and see they had a spike in their traffic seven years ago so they obviously bought followers and it means nothing.
CH: Exactly it’s about education and correct analysis of the data, and of course data is obviously massive in this industry and I think when those two are combined along with contacting the content creator and saying, “This is what we found, can you tell us what’s going on” so to speak. I think it’s better than having an agency say, “They look perfect” and then running the influencer through their technology and going “No because they’ve got fake followers from X years ago” which I don’t think is the right way to go.
SD: In your experience what kind of brands do you think are ahead of the curve when it comes to influencer marketing?
CH: I’d love to be able to roll of many brands but I still think a lot of brands are playing it really safe. I think that’s another area of marketing that needs improving. Some content creators are wacky, creative, fun and I think brands need to let go of the reins and let them do what they’re best at. I’m sure that’s what a lot of content creators have issues with brands and having control over what they can do. I’m aware brands give them guidelines and stipulations around particular campaigns but I do think a lot more content creators should just go for it.
I’m quite a big fan with what the Goat agency are doing with Formula E. I’m a big fan of Formula E and they’ve worked with them for a while. The fact that there are electric vehicles that are so incredibly impressive. If you like Formula 1 you need to check out Formula E. Goat have been working with them for quite some time and how they’re using content creators around the globe to promote Formula E, show their passion around electric vehicles and also they have a studio where there are content creators there. And it’s fun and reminds me of the early Sky Sports Saturday morning show where they had footballers come on and they’re doing funny dares.
I can see that area of influencer marketing taking off and as it morphs more into more mainstream TV I think is quite innovative as well. Obviously we’ve heard about virtual influencers in the fashion industry as well but if I think if I had to pick off one specific thing I think it would be the work Goat are doing with Formula E.
Also, Lego had an empty popup shop in London which was a clothing shop but there were no clothes. Instead there were Snapchat QR codes and then you could see the clothes through the Snapchat lens. I would like to see more brands be more cutting next year as well.
SD: Given your deep in the industry, I want to get a few predictions on the future of influencer marketing. The first one being where do you see the industry heading in the next 12 months and where do you see it in the next five years?
CH: I’m going to answer the easiest question and that’s where it’s at in five years. I don’t think anyone can tell you where it’s going to be in five years. I’d be really intrigued if someone could say to me, “I think the industry will be here” because things are changing so frequently, however some thing aren’t improving quick enough.
We can go back to the fraudulent side of things or how brands don’t give content creators enough freedom as well. I think in five years content creators will have more contracts when they sign up with brands because today a lot don’t use contracts when working with brands which I find quite surprising. I would like this to become the norm.
The next twelve months I can see gaming growing and not just from a gamer point of view, it’s also brands that are getting involved. I spoke to someone from Pringles three weeks ago and they’re planning some series money into getting exposure in the gaming industry.
Also, all these gaming events as well and the prize money you can win from winning a competition in a wide range of different games is big bucks. Some of these games are not using any forms of “traditional” marketing and they are just using content creators to promote the fact they’ve launched a new game as well.
Gaming is certainly going to be bit and the CGI influencers are also going to be big this year from the interest I’ve had from brands but whether it will be longer than the next twelve months it’s hard to say. I think gaming for sure
SD: Gaming is such a huge industry as well. I saw a stat the other month and it said that gaming industry is bigger than the entire movie industry and when certain games are launched they’re bigger than blockbuster movie launches. It looked crazy and yet I’ve never played a game for years.
CH: Look at Fortnite for argument’s sake. People who aren’t even gamers have heard about. I think it’s so popular because you can play on your Playstation, Xbox and mobile phone and I think that’s the way it’s going. The gaming industry has changed massively.
SD: Just to recap you said that gaming from an influencer marketing standpoint is going to be even bigger than it is today?
CH: Yes, I’m going to be biased now and there’s a great agency in Bristol called Fourth Floor Creative who are big into gaming and they have impressive stats to say how big the industry is. I can see gaming expanding for not just twelve months but for many years ahead personally.
SD: Final question and this is a question to everyone and it doesn’t have to be marketing related or even influencer marketing related. What’s the one book you recommend everyone should read?
CH: Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and Japanese Psyche by Haruki Murakami.