Last week, ISBA attempted to standardise the industry’s previously "hotchpotch" approach to formalising relationships between vloggers and brands by launching a new contract for its members to use as a framework.
The contract, which was drafted by law firm Lewis Silkin with input from Zoella’s talent agency Gleam Futures, includes guidance on how social influencers should label paid-for content and how they should be paid for it.
Despite the publicity around the reach of bloggers such as Zoella and her boyfriend Alfie Deyes, who drew a bigger crowd to his book-signing in 2014 than David Beckham, some marketers have yet to be convinced of their role within the wider marketing mix.
Ash Tailor, global brand and marketing director at Britvic, said: "There is so much pressure and cost involved to develop relevant content. It is easy to be seduced by followers, views and ‘likes’.
"The concern I have is ensuring transparency of tracking and data that adds true value to brand performance and growth. It’s hard for marketers to acquire all data to fully measure influencer impact."
Last year, GlobalWebIndex found that vlogs are the least popular way to discover brands, even among people who watch them regularly. Only 19% of people surveyed said they discovered brands through blogs, versus 59% through ads seen online and 58% through TV and radio ads.
Richard Burgess, social media manager at Vauxhall, said metrics provided by influencers had to "sit at the board table" alongside the robust numbers coming from print and TV.
Vloggers who spoke to Campaign at the ISBA event last week said they would be willing to share as much information as possible with advertisers, although they might not have the verified data that marketers require.
YouTube influencer Ben Phillips said: "Whatever metric they want, I would give up. When I can tell you their shoe size, I’ll tell you their shoe size."
McDonald’s recent closure of its YouTube channel suggests the format is not mature enough to form the basis of major marketing strategies. Yet many brands are successfully using social influencers to augment wider campaigns.
Aviva recently worked with vloggers to amplify a campaign by Adam & Eve/DDB and Zenith that highlights the dangers of driving while using your mobile phone. Aviva brand and marketing communications director Peter Markey said the vloggers allowed Aviva to "reach out to new audiences". "It’s about knowing the role influencers play in the mix, not hitching your wagon to them," he said.
How important are vloggers for brands?
Mark Eaves, founder, Gravity Road:
"Too often in our industry "work with vloggers" becomes the substitute for a good idea. Clearly working with a new generation of talent – with its own sphere of influence – is incredibly powerful, and often they show the way to behave for brands that too often look out of step with connected audiences. But that alone isn’t the answer. In some ways its timeless – talent is only as good as the idea they have to play with."
Anna Watkins, partner, Mofilm:
"Vloggers are increasingly important for brands as we see increased effectiveness when we develop integrated plans that combine the higher levels of engagement and organic reach via influencers alongside the targeted reach of paid-for channels."
Andy Jex, executive creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi:
"Vloggers can be great. They have a very targeted audience, and a fan base that loves them. If you get it right, they can give your brand permission to talk to people – in Mattessons’ case, it was gamers – that they wouldn’t normally have the right to engage with.
"But you still need a great creative idea. Just asking a vlogger to unbox a new product for you is easy, but it’s not very interesting. We find if you give them something better than that – like an artificially intelligent robot who comes to live with them for three months – you’re giving them tools to create really interesting content for their audience.
"Of course, once you’ve given them the idea, and a bit of direction, you have to leave them to get on with it. You want what they film to look true to their style, so you have to get over your urge to make it shorter, shoot it differently, or whatever it is. They talk to six million kids every day, so they know what their audience wants better than you do "
Michael Islip, UK chief executive, DigitasLBi:
"Engaging a YouTube star to vlog about a product or service is an appealing prospect for a brand. It can be a really powerful way to communicate to audiences that brands can’t normally reach, in an authentic way. But brands should be under no illusions – this is a pay-to-play channel, and it should be seen as part of the media mix. There is also a challenge around communicating with vloggers’ audiences, with stricter guidelines from advertising authorities around vloggers’ work with brands. Collaboration and allowing the vlogger to work in their own way is a daunting but much more effective way to produce compelling content, and some brands may be reluctant to surrender at least part of their creative control."
Martina Mattioni, head of influencer marketing, TMW Unlimited:
"Brands and agencies should draw a distinction between vloggers and skilled people that are influential on YouTube. While vloggers can be a key tool to distribute key messages to your audiences through a peer, brands must understand what they are getting for their money – just as they would when investing in traditional paid advertising (who are they reaching; age/location/gender/audience interests).
"We’ve seen a shift away from celebrities and mass vloggers who traditionally focus on product endorsement, to passionate and skilled "creators" who are experienced in their particular field.
"These influential "creators" have inherent credibility and can be used to co-create beautiful content with cost efficiently while sharing your brand’s messages to their engaged audiences. Examples include Lisa Eldridge, The Body Coach, The Slow Mo Guys and Damien Walters."