John Hegarty joins social influencer 'dating service' Whalar as chairman

Sir John Hegarty has been appointed chairman of Whalar, an influencer marketing platform that has partnered with Facebook.

John Hegarty: said he became Whalar chairman "to be a market leader"
John Hegarty: said he became Whalar chairman "to be a market leader"

The Bartle Bogle Hegarty co-founder will take to the stage at Cannes Lions later this month, alongside Whalar founder and chief executive Neil Waller, to tell the start-up’s story to the marketing industry.

With a mission to "liberate the creative voice", Whalar claims to be the only influencer marketing platform that is a partner of Facebook and Instagram, the picture-sharing platform owned by Facebook.

The 18-month old start-up has gained investment from R/GA Ventures and Snapchat owner Snap and its client roster includes PepsiCo, Adidas, Heineken, and 21st Century Fox. 

Whalar describes itself as a "dating service" because the site’s algorithm helps brands find creators to collaborate with.

Last year Whalar helped Adidas launched its ZNE ("Zero Negative Energy") clothing range in the UK by identifying social influencers that promoted core product benefits movement, travel and focus. Whalar enlisted nine UK-based content creators, such as Scott Bass (@ampisound) and Lottie Murphy (@lottiemurphy_), whose social media posts reached 474,000 followers combined within 30 days.

However, the influencer marketing space has come under heavy criticism after instances of ads not being easily recognised as marketing communications. In March, the Advertising Standards Authority published new guidelines on affiliate marketing to help brands stick to UK advertising rules. 

It is not the first role Hegarty has taken up outside of BBH since the agency sold to Publicis Groupe in 2012, having launched an incubator business, The Garage Soho, in 2014.

Hegarty said: "Why did I become chairman of Whalar? To be a market leader. To stand for integrity and openness. To develop a code of practice for how the influencer industry is seen. To work with the best influencers – because we’re the best.

"We want to help them build and develop their relationships with their followers. But most of all we want to liberate the creative voice in all of us. For our clients, our influencers and for our business."

Hegarty and Waller will appear on the Inspiration Stage at Cannes Lions on 20 June at 5pm. 

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Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).