Keith Weed, who retired as chief marketing and communications officer at Unilever last month, has been named as an investor in influencer marketplace Tribe.
The platform, which focuses on "micro-influencers" who typically have 3,000-10,000 followers, lets brands work with them in two ways: conventional influencer campaigns, in which the influencers create branded content to post on their own channels, and content campaigns, which the brand can use in its own channels.
In both approaches, brands provide a brief and the platform’s creators then share their content idea, along with a price, which the buyer can accept or reject.
Speaking to Campaign, Weed said Tribe – which he worked with while at Unilever – solved a problem for marketers who needed to create ever-more content, but had static or declining budgets with which to do so.
This, he said, was the result of the proliferation in the number of media channels available and the rapid growth in the amount of content we are consuming.
"It’s those short periods of time, whether you’re commuting, or just bits here and there on the sofa – and then of course there’s at the office," Weed said.
The situation means marketers need "high-quality content, quickly and at low cost," he said – but are usually in a position where they can only have two of these three things. Tribe allows for all three, he claimed.
Weed admitted that the model, in which content creators must put forward completed work that may or may not be bought, could put some creators off, but he said: "It hasn’t been a deterrent so far – those that produce good work get rewarded."
Not a threat to agencies
Despite being open about seeing cost-effectiveness as fundamental to the appeal of Tribe, Weed rejected the suggestion that its influencers would increasingly replace the role of creative agencies, with their costlier traditional models.
"The role of fabulous hair-standing-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck creatives is what’s made the industry an exciting place to be, and for many many years to come, advertising agencies will be taking professional creatives and creating fabulous work," he said.
But Weed added that this did not "minimise" what he called the "fantastic" work done by some social creators, suggesting that it was wrong to see different types of creative work in a hierarchy.
"I would encourage advertising agencies to continue to build fantastic muscles in creativity," he continued. "And I’d also encourage micro-influencers to get better at creativity as well."
Seventy to eighty per cent of the effectiveness of a piece of content is determined by the creative, Weed argued, with only 20-30% coming from the media buy. While the marketing industry had put a lot of energy into developing expertise in data and performance, he said, "an eye has been slightly taken off the creative ball. There’s a great opportunity for brands to re-engage in great creative."
‘Amazing progress’ on social platform problems
Weed said he planned his investment in Tribe to be one of several in "start-ups and interesting companies" in the marketing space– something he will pursue alongside directorships and trusteeships as part of his post-Unilever career.
But this first move is striking, after Weed’s involvement last year in tackling the bad practices of the influencer world. He announced at Cannes last year that Unilever would refuse to work with influencers that bought followers and sang the praises of Twitter for a purge of "locked" accounts that inflated the follower numbers of some users by millions.
"The influencer market is young, developing fast and growing very quickly," Weed said. "Since the big push, you won’t be surprised to hear the people who engaged with me are the real creators who are thankful someone has tried to clean this up."
Earlier last year, he pledged to stop working with digital platforms that "create divisions in society" – but he said there had been "amazing progress" from the platforms, making comments that more cynical commentators might find credulous.
"If you look back to when these platforms were created, they were created with a tremendous vision of the positive impact they can have on society," Weed said.
"We should recognise the priority the digital platforms are giving to sorting out the unintended consequences. I’ve only seen good positive intentions."