The influencer marketing industry is in the news again. This time courtesy of rapper-singer Badshah (Aditya Sisodia) who is being investigated by the police for allegedly paying money to get fake followers and likes to promote his music, as uncovered by the Mumbai Mirror, published by the Times Group.
Fake followers and fake influencers — users who’ve gained popularity only on the back of fake followers — are not new concepts to this industry as some would rightly argue. “But a celebrity’s name coming up in a fake views scam can potentially raise doubts on the follower count of several content creators who’ve built their fanbase organically through years of work,” says a content professional at a new economy brand who wishes to stay anonymous.
Further, the issue comes at a time when influencer marketing is coming up as the fastest-growing category in the Rs 21,000 crore digital advertising space, for advertisers like PepsiCo, Under Armour, Lava, Sugar Cosmetics and upGrad, among others.
“Influencer marketing has effectively taken over the entire digital marketing space in the last few years,” says a PepsiCo India spokesperson.
Companies, especially in categories like tech and electronics, spend upwards of Rs 10 crore a year on influencer outreach campaigns, twice as much as those in the personal care and food sectors, according to influencer analytics companies.
Even as many companies in fashion, automobiles and travel — whose business took a hit due to Covid-19 — have halted ad spends, “consumption across edtech, fintech and FMCG has gone through the roof during this period,” notes Viraj Sheth, cofounder of Monk Entertainment, a Mumbai-based talent management and influencer marketing firm. “Brands in these categories that have not been able to do proper ad shoots have hiked their influencer spends by 20%-30% and some of the influencer videos have been used for digital promotions across social media accounts,” he adds. However, the rapid growth of the industry does not, unfortunately, compensate for the issues it faces in the absence of standard industry practices and regulations. These include issues such as the lack of pricing and measurement standards, absence of contracts between many agencies and influencers, unprofessional behaviour by some creators, obsessive focus on reach instead of impact, and the tendency of advertisers to run after the