A white  poodle, dressed in pink satin outfit and also wearing colourfull bead neckalces and black sunglasses, who is a social media influencer is sitting at their desk in a dim living room with a lit side lamp, holding a smartphone, with camera and microphone pointed at them.

The big spend: a new age of influencer marketing

January 2024

Love them, hate them or desperately want to be one of them, influencers have long been a fixture in our social media lives, and they’re likely to be for some time. In fact, we’re going to see much more of them, as brands move their budget out of more traditional ads like social, OOH and TV and increase their influencer marketing spending.

According to a report by Insider Intelligence, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Snapchat all saw significant growth in influencer marketing spending in 2023. TikTok led the way, with growth of  27.8%, followed by Instagram with 12.7%.

Contrast that with only a 0.1% increase in social ad spend on Facebook and a decrease of -1.8% on Snapchat. Only TikTok saw an uptick, with an increase of 23.1% in ad spend.

“Brands move their budget out of more traditional ads and increase their influencer marketing spending”

You’ll have spotted the tell-tale sign of this trend if you’ve noticed more sponsored content appearing on your social feed lately. Sponsored social media content in the US will clock in at around 3.5 times faster than social ad spending in 2024, and it’s expected to outpace it right through to at least 2025.

The new stars of the screen

So why is this happening? Firstly, it’s not that surprising that influencer marketing budgets are growing, given the rise of creative, short-form video platforms like TikTok – which lend themselves so well to influencer content.

Over time these platforms have become less ‘social’ and more like entertainment channels. And the influencer is replacing the TV actor as the entertainment star of our times.

But it's also true that brands know what a positive impact influencers (or creators, as they’re increasingly known) can have on their bottom line.

Avoiding ad-avoidance

One big reason for this is that the way people consume and share content is changing, and customers are more discerning about what they want to see.

They want authentic, real content, with real people sharing relatable experiences and opinions, rather than straight-up advertising. The ‘Skip ad’ button is working overtime, and “ad-avoidance” is one of the reasons behind the fall in ad spend.

A teenage brown poodle wearing a baseball cap sitting on their bed in a dimly lit bedroom with posters on the wall is looking at their smartphone, looking engaged with what they are seeing.
“People want authentic, real content, with real people rather than straight-up advertising”

Meanwhile, influencers and creators are meeting the demand for authentic, engaging content, which is why they’re such a powerful way to connect with customers and build loyalty and trust.

Enter stage left: the new creators

So which creators are riding high on this new wave of influencer marketing? And how do marketers keep on top of the wave, too?

Creators are increasingly specialised (there’s a whole internet-full of influencers who’ve made a career about being German, for example, or poking gentle fun at other generations) and more professional. They are accomplished artists, actors, photographers, film-makers, rather than just internet celebrities.

A portrait of a confident light brown poodle wearing big pink statement sunglasses, chain necklaces and an orange furry hippie style coat, sitting in a colourful living room, a smartphone on a tripod in the background.
“Creators are increasingly specialised and more professional"

And in order to make their marketing dollars work extra hard, brands in turn are becoming more discerning about who they work with. Performance influencer marketing, which is where the brand pays for conversions and sales, is made possible by predictive AI and is becoming one of the hottest new trends.

It allows brands to use performance metrics to track results and get the best ROI, and it means they can take a more scientific, data-led approach to choosing which creators to collaborate with.

A shift towards subtlety

As for the content itself, there is a shift away from explicit endorsement to more subtle, seamless – and more creative – product placement. Look at the bold approach of Lagavullin Distillery, which collaborated with Parks and Recreation star Nick Offerman to produce the Offerman “Yule Log” episode – a 45-minute video of Offerman saying nothing and doing nothing except sitting next to a crackling fireplace, drinking Lagavullin whiskey.

All in all, the influencer industry of 2024 and beyond is going to be a very different beast than the one of old. No more celebrities making us feel bad with their impossibly perfect lives. Or making us cringe by ending racial conflict once and for all with just a can of Pepsi (yes, you, Kendall Jenner).

Influencer marketing of the future is not just going to be more lucrative, it’s also going to be more creative, more talented and much more interesting.