Watermarking virtual influencers

110 | Turning to creators ahead of journalists for news

Issue #110 | Your reading time this week is 5 mins. 25 secs.

Welcome back to the Creator Briefing. This week we cover why we want our news to come from influencers, not journalists. We look at protecting consumers by watermarking virtual influencer content - and why this idea’s not new. Virtual influencers come to Cannes. Kick poaches top Twitch star in a deal which could hit $100m. And the TikToker who faked his own death to teach his family a ‘life lesson’.

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UK ad market forecast at £36.3 billion in 2024

The UK’s advertising market contracted by 5.8% during Q4 2022, to a total of £8.6bn according to new figures from The Advertising Association/WARC Expenditure Report.

However, while the number was well behind forecast, the UK's ad market still grew 8.8% during 2022 as a whole – to a value of £34.8bn. The report forecasts the 2024 ad market to be worth £36.3bn

Influence is King

This newsletter is supported by Fourth Floor – a digital marketing agency that fully understands the power of influence. Fourth Floor is an insight-led creative, social and influencer agency that enables games businesses to engage audiences, build emotional connections and get results. They build bespoke campaigns by combining any number of their services, which include advocacy, production, commerce and events. Find out how they can help your business at fourthfloor.co 

We turn to influencers for news ahead of journalists finds report

Half of us turns to influencers for mainstream news stories ahead of journalists across TikTok (55% vs 33%), Snapchat (55% vs 36%), and Instagram (52% vs 42%) - on YouTube the split is 45% vs 42%. This is according to The 2023 Reuters Institute Digital News Report, published this week.

A 2020 TAKUMI report found that one-in-four consumers were more likely to source news updates and opinions from influencers than from journalists and established news outlets. For younger consumers, the ratio was one-in-three.

This week’s figures from Reuters show that for TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram the ratio has dropped to 1-in-2 users turning to influencers ahead of journalists.

The figures, whilst a boon for the creator economy, do throw up questions around disinformation and misinformation. Good decision-making depends on people having reliable, accurate facts placed before them within a meaningful context.

The skill of engaging storytelling binds the influencer to the journalist. But, journalism is storytelling with a purpose accomplished through assembling and verifying facts to produce a “functional truth.”

The Reuters Insitute Digital News Report started tracking how social media users engaged with news stories in 2021. I wrote about Instagram as a news source at the time.

Watermark virtual influencers urges Ogilvy

WPP-owned Ogilvy has launched the AI Accountability Act seeking AI-generated influencers to be disclosed via a hashtag or new marker designated by social media platforms.

The Ogilvy initiative chimes with recommendations made in the past by the Influencer Marketing Trade Body. In August 2021 IMTB wrote to the UK Parliament's inquiry on influencer culture advocating that virtual influencers should be watermarked.

Parliament’s resulting report noted IMTB’s suggestion (paragraph 38) and recommended that “the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) introduce a requirement to the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising (CAP Code) for virtual influencers to be watermarked. (paragraph 39)”.

TikTok is already on the case. It updated its community guidelines in March stating content featuring realistic-looking virtual influencers had to be marked to show the creators were not humans: "Synthetic or manipulated media that shows realistic scenes must be clearly disclosed. This can be done through the use of a sticker or caption, such as ‘synthetic’, ‘fake’, ‘not real’, or ‘altered’".

ASCI, India’s advertising regulator, became the first national ad watchdog to cover virtual influencers within its disclosure guidelines. I wrote about this initiative in August 2021.

DECLARATION: - I lead the Influencer Marketing Trade Body. Ogilvy is a founding member of our professional membership organisation. Ogilvy’s global head of influence, Rahul Titus, sits on our board.

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