Pancakes and Motor Oil

Airbrushing and photoshopping models to look taller and thinner.

Motor oil disguised as syrup.

Target’s famous #PhotoshopFail of 2014.

And now, “Influencer Marketing.”

For years consumers have requested brands to be more authentic in their messaging and marketing, yet with the continued use of tactics like airbrushing and photoshopping, the vast majority of brands continue to try and deceive and mislead the consumer.

The latest approach in deceptive advertising? The sponsored post or paid endorsement. Otherwise known as Influencer Marketing.

Just like airbrushing and digital enhancements that consumers fought against in the 90’s and early 2000’s, it seems that Influencer Marketing is headed down a similar path, deceiving consumers by paying highly influential models and actors to YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram their love and loyalty to a brand.

And as much as brands and Influencer Marketing firms promote the authenticity of their brand stories based on highly-curated collaborations, it’s really all about a paycheck. And the Influencers with the largest reach and impressions receive the largest paychecks. It’s just that simple.

Sometimes the campaigns work. Oftentimes, they fail. When they fail, they fail very publicly. Just look at this month’s list of #InfluencerFails: BOOTEA, Volvo, and Adidas are just a few of the brands that took it on the chin with their Influencer Marketing campaign fails.


Simply put, Influencer Marketing is lying and customers don’t want to be lied to. Advertising great David Ogilvy said it best: “Never write an advertisement which you wouldn’t want your family to read. You wouldn’t tell lies to your own wife. Don’t tell them to mine.”

When the Federal Trade commission has to step in to help regulate the Influencer Marketing industry against anti-trust rules, you know it’s really a problem. And that’s where we are today with Influencer Marketing. The recent smackdown by the FTC requiring advertisers to use the hashtag #ads or #sponsored is just the beginning and we suspect consumers will also contribute to the smackdown as they don’t appreciate being lied to by brands.

Even though these brands are making it (financially), many are still obsessed with faking it. Maple trees didn’t intend for their syrup to have the density and viscosity of motor oil, why not just use real, authentic syrup in their marketing and advertising campaigns?

So, what’s the solution? We don’t believe treating Influencers as media outlets, and paying them for reach and impressions is the solution. We do believe treating the customer as the Influencer is the solution. Customers who already love, trust, and have true brand loyalty should be the Influencer. It’s low-risk, it’s honest, and it keeps that brand-love alive.