Live from Chicago

Today we’re speaking with Samantha Merkin of FCB Chicago, Molly Tracy of VRAI Digital, Aana Leech of Popular Pays by Light Tricks, and Corinne Travis & Julian Greene of Flagship.



Jessy: So first of all, before we even start, I actually wanted you guys to give yourself a round of applause for being here.

 So my name is Jessy Grossman. I’m the founder of Wiim. I have really incredible panelists who I’m going to be introducing shortly, and I’m just super grateful for you guys to be here, to be enthused about women in influencer marketing, and we’re going to have a really fun time tonight. So first and foremost, we have a couple of sponsors that I absolutely have to thank because this literally would not be possible without them.

FCB is one of them. This is their beautiful, yeah. This is their space. You guys look around. We did. I did nothing. This is just how beautiful it is all day every day and their team has been phenomenal. So huge thank you to all the FCB folks and also our second sponsor is flagship. A big round of applause.

to Flagship, they’re a wonderful platform that you guys will hear more about tonight. We have people on the panel from FCB, from Flagship, and also a couple of other companies that you’re going to hear about. the format of tonight, today, tonight, I guess not technically night yet, whatever, is we’re going to do this panel, it’s going to be really casual, informative, all about influence and marketing, we’re going to really dive into it.

 We’re going to be having intimate networking activities, which I’ll explain a little bit more later. But you’ll get a chance to really connect with other people who are here today. We had over a hundred people register for this event. And I think most of them are here. There are a lot of people here today, which is really awesome.

and I want you guys to connect with each other and not superficially like I really want you guys to make meaningful connections. So we have, an activity specifically designed for that to happen. Okay, so with all that being said I want all of our panelists to first… introduce themselves.

We have a lot of really great questions that we’re going to get into. And so Samantha, do you want to kick it off? I’d love for you to introduce yourself.

Samantha Merkin: Hi everyone. My name is Samantha Merkin. I am the Associate Director for Influencer at FCB Chicago. I want to welcome everybody to our space. We are very happy to have you.

Aana Leech: Hi, I’m Anna Leach. I am the head of product at Popular Pays by Lightrix. really excited to be here. I’ve been in Chicago for a long time. Excited to be up here with a really great panel of women to talk about influencer marketing.

Molly Tracy: Hi, everyone. I’m the CEO and founder of Bray Digital. We’re a boutique talent management agency. I’m really happy to be back in Chicago. This is where I built My space and my industry here. It’s nice to be back in Chicago. I’m in LA now. I was here for eight years. This is where I got my start in influencer marketing. Very nostalgic. 

Corinne Travis: Hi everybody. I am Corinne Travis. I am the head of creator experience at Flagship. yeah, I too haven’t been here in a while. Brings back all the memories. Lots of Lollapaloozas spent here. And happy to be here in a professional manner. 

Jessy: Professional tonight. 

Corinne Travis: I feel professional.

Julian Greene: I went to Lollapalooza. 

Jessy: We’re here to play.

Julian Greene: Hi, everyone. My name is Julian. I’m the head of creative partnerships at Flagship. Very excited to share more about who we are and what we’re building. I live in Brooklyn, so we flew out for this event, which I’m so happy about.

WIM has just been such an amazing community to be a part of, and I’m really looking forward to meeting all of you and talking more about 

Jessy: Flagship and just this great industry. Thank you guys. and yes, we had people travel far and wide, but also a lot of local Chicagoans. How do you say it?

Chicagoans? Chicagoans. I love Chicago. Just want to say that. I’m from New York, and I legit, it’s beautiful here. I also came from All right. So first question is the most serious question of the night. This is for every panelist. Fuck, marry, kill, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Samantha, starting with 

Samantha Merkin: you. I just want to level set that I asked these questions to our CEO and our chief creative officer about two and a half years ago in front of our entire agency.

So this is a, this is easy. I definitely would kill YouTube. I’m really sorry, I just can’t do anything about it. I think I would marry Instagram. I think it’s my first love. And then, I would fuck TikTok. 

Aana Leech: What does what does fuck mean in this context? 

Jessy: It is whatever you interpret it to be. That’s the fun part! 

Aana Leech: I know, I’m still like, what does this mean? alright, kill, I’m on the YouTube train, I’m sorry. I want to love YouTube. I know I really want to love it. But I, it’s just not there for me. I think I would marry TikTok. And what, who am I forgetting now?

Fuck, yeah. I need to wait. No, she said kill YouTube. Yeah, I said kill YouTube. I would marry TikTok and I would, yeah, fuck Instagram. 

Jessy: I think the opposite. I would marry YouTube. Oh my god, I love YouTube. Hot take. It’s the most reliable. I am the girl who literally watches YouTube on my television.

Every night. Oh, wow. Okay, yeah. Oh, we have lots of who’s not I would totally fuck TikTok because I think it would be fun. And TikTok would be a good

time. And then I would, I guess I would kill Instagram. I would absolutely kill Instagram. Instagram’s all over the place and I like decisiveness. 

Molly Tracy: So we’ve played this game before on our last podcast. I am a loyalist. I have not changed my mind. I’m killing YouTube R.I.P. I’m fucking TikTok because it’s spicy, and I’m marrying Instagram, and I am gonna give a sidechick because I gave a sidechick last time.

I am side-checking the blog. I just am. I’m a loyalist. I love blogs though. That’s 

Corinne Travis: I’m similar. I’m, I have to kill YouTube. I get it, but I’m just not there. TikTok is fun, and I think it’d be fun for a night, so we’re gonna fuck them, and then I’m just committed to Instagram. I spend. I spend every day and night on Instagram. 

Samantha Merkin: But I know.

Julian Greene:  I go on and I’m just like, I feel awful here. It doesn’t bring me the joy I want. 

Jessy: Not every relationship is healthy. It is true. It’s a toxic relationship. There you go. It should be. It should be. It should be. 

Julian Greene: Yeah, but I want to marry YouTube.

Samantha Merkin: It’s filled with just like this content that isn’t on Netflix. It’s not on TV.

Julian Greene: I love cooking. And so there are so many great recipe creators on there. And it’s just great content. Their ability to create video, it’s unbelievable. Check it out. I recommend. That platform is called YouTube. And then, that little thing.

Julian Greene:  So I’d kill, no, yeah, I would kill Instagram, then I’d talk. But the reason for that is because I think It has this content. It’s fresh it’s like the original Instagram days where like I’m discovering, I’m learning. It’s fun, it’s fresh. It’s exciting. It’s a new relationship. 

Jessy: Totally. It’s a new relationship, so hang that stage.

Yes, exactly. Yeah, totally. Ooh, my side check would be LinkedIn. Oh, I feel that way. I like the blog side check.

Corinne Travis: Thank you. Yeah. blog chick is, we’re like best friend or like Best friend is the blog. 

Molly Tracy: Yeah. 

Jessy: Okay. She’s your bestie. Yeah. Okay. I know you all are thinking about this, and please discuss it amongst yourselves after the panel.

It’s a good question. We all want to know who you’re fucking. Is that right? Oh my god. I think we all said TikTok. Wait, we all said TikTok. We all said TikTok. We all said TikTok. I don’t remember. Alright, that’s the hot takes. Cool. That is the hot team. so speaking of hot takes, I, it’s an interesting time of year.

It’s We’re all, digging into Q4, planning for Q1, thinking about the year in its entirety. Corinne, I’d love to start with you. How generally has 2023 felt this year? Has it been busy? Or like up and down? 

Corinne Travis: I think if it’s been slow for anyone, come and talk to me after this, for me personally, it’s been very up and down.

I recently left a very unfulfilling role at my last company. And I took some time off. And I like it really took some time off, took a good look at what I wanted to do, what excited me, where I wanted to be, flagship is it, but then I also feel like I’ve carried that in and I hope People are doing this as well, but like setting boundaries, eight to six will say I am busy.

I’m on. It is, I’m doing my job. And then afterwards, my phone is down. My computer is down. And I think that has really helped me not feel so busy, but like when the day is done.

Jessy: You like to feel complete, you did your stuff. 

Corinne Travis: You like but you’re not in that like busy mindset always going. 

Jessy: I really hope to continue that. And what does that do for you? Like just having those boundaries, like what are some byproducts of have you actually been able to do that? Is it helpful?

Corinne Travis: Yeah,  I have kids, so the big thing is like being present with them. I think it’s funny because I always tell my kids you can’t do screen time after a certain, hour, and then but I’m like, I can do screen time, just not you, right?

So it’s just allowing yourself to be present in whatever, whether you’re at kids, or you’re going out with a friend, or, and I feel like this is so much easier said than done, but it takes practice. But I think it’s, yeah, definitely helpful. 

Jessy: Yeah, and that’s the only way to get good at it, is just by practicing. Practice, I mean everything, right? Everything, yeah. How about you, how’s your 20? 

Samantha Merkin: I would say 2023 has been very busy, for FCB Chicago on the influencer front, which is great. We are continuing to grow which is always a positive and I think we’re continuing to want to grow. We want to reach, we have over 45 brands in the building and I would love to work with every single one of them.

I love to be busy. I think what you said really resonated with me about setting boundaries. I think I’m trying to learn to be better about that. As my manager is laughing. I am always someone whose wheels are turning and always trying to think about how can we be better for the next client how can I get more business or how can we sell this in?

So I’m always thinking about the next thing. Even when I’m in the current state, even when I might not be busy, I make myself busy. But your work brings you joy, and that’s so important. It does. 

Jessy: Yeah, I love what I do. That’s the thing, I think having the self-awareness to know does it to the point that it’s still…

And then have a self-awareness to know when it’s crossing some lines for you. I’m too stressed and too overwhelmed. Sometimes I gotta be honest, coming here to Chicago was that reset. I, me, I’m a person who just needs a change of scenery. I feel so invigorated just like taking a little work trip.

Sometimes it’s just a change of scenery, sometimes it’s like shutting off a device, like whatever it is for you. So important. Ana, I’d love to ask you What would you tell women who want to make a career in influence marketing. I know there are probably some people here who are very senior but there are probably some people here who are just getting started and would love some advice basically, what do you wish that you knew?

Aana Leech: Yeah, that’s a really good question. And I think it’s also really a kind of a good segue after the last question because setting boundaries is obviously really important to make sure that you’re setting yourself up for success. And so that’s something that I certainly wish I was able to learn much earlier on in my career.

But in terms of getting into influencer marketing and how I feel like this you can make your way in this industry. If you look around, like there are all women, not all women. There are many women in this room. Thank you, men, for coming as well. We’re excited to have you here, I think, yes, but I think that there’s there was, I didn’t have as early of recognition that like these women there, excuse me, this industry is dominated by women.

Like we have such a strong voice and such a strong, ability to influence where this industry is actually going. And so I think we need to recognize that and step into that and own that. And so that’s a really powerful place to be. The other thing that I think is really important about kind of in general, like how you approach success is we have, I have a tendency to try and overperfect things and think oh I’m not going to go either for that job, or I’m not going to put this out in front of my boss, or I’m not going to do this or that the other thing until it’s 100 percent perfect, like pixel perfect.

And starting in startups, going through the entire rigmarole of everything is absolutely the wrong way to be thinking. It matters to get things done better than perfect. Better than perfect. Just get it done, get it good enough to go, and put it out there.

And you’ll be able to reap the results of that so much faster than sitting there and tinkering. Stop tinkering, just do, and then you’ll be able to change and take your next step forward. Yeah. 

Jessy: Yeah, absolutely. And the thing is too, that enjoying the process of perfecting the thing.

Not expecting to be perfect from the beginning, but the journey of testing it, and trying it out, and oh I could tweak this, I could tweak that, and the journey. 

Aana Leech: And you’ll learn so much more if you like, leverage your community to get feedback. Put it out there, see how people respond iterate from that point whether or not it’s.

It’s yourself or a product that you’re building or a campaign that you’re working on. Like I just default to just moving forward, getting things out. 

Jessy: I know. I love that. I would love to hear your thoughts as well. So the question is, what, basically what do you wish that you knew sooner?

And what would, what advice would you give to make a really great, satisfying career? 

Julian Greene: I think exactly what you said, like there’s so many women in this space right now and I look to all of us as entrepreneurs, really. I started my career 10 years ago in the creator space. I actually worked at an agency in New York in PR.

And I saw that there was this rise of blogs happening. And I could understand this, I used to work on the Amazon retail team. And I could send an Instant Pot to a blogger, and she could send back the unique monthly views that the post was seeing. And so when I thought about that, I was like, there’s, I’m actually able to quantify and show the impact of this relationship that I built, where it’s going.

And I would always say to think like an entrepreneur, think ahead, see where the opportunities are. We’re all building here, like the past 10 years, so much has changed in the creator economy and no voice is too small. Like I guarantee you every person in the room has something to say. And if you don’t feel comfortable in that space, like raising your hand, that’s okay.

But sideline someone and talk about it, I saw this opportunity. Let’s build like the coolest thing about being in the creator economy is that none of us really know what we’re doing, but we all See that there’s opportunity and let’s go with it. And I think that’s really been the guiding force in my career I’m definitely very bullish on working in startups That’s where I’ve spent my whole career I’m gonna actually build a company at 25 and sold it at 29 because of that and so as a result like follow your heart and really look at those opportunities It’s gonna get you really far.

Jessy: So yeah and I love that too because to me it’s never ego-driven if you approach it from that perspective. And I just think that the work is so much better when your ego gets set aside. And you’re just like, we’re all just learning together. We’re all just trying to make this as good as it can be, and learn from each other.

Julian Greene: And everyone here, we all have the opportunity to help shape this. So every conversation we’re writing the playbook. We’re writing the playbook, so every conversation that will happen tonight, like This could be the thing that helps everyone here. 

Jessy: Okay. So Molly is our resident talent manager. So I have a question specifically for you.

So I’m wondering, I can imagine that there are people in the audience who. Either work for or represent a small brand like smaller brands with me or a large brand with a smaller budget and so my question is like from your perspective a manager. Can a small brand or a brand with a small budget utilize influencers Or should they wait till they have more money? What do you think is the best approach? 

Molly Tracy: I don’t think you have to wait till you have more money. I think that the boom that UGC, that TikTok has created around UGC is a godsend for brands that don’t have a large budget. You can absolutely tap into those, that micro-creator economy, and use them to create UGC for your brand that you can then leverage in paid media.

I think people are saying that paid media is like a 2 CPM right now, which is much lower than what you would spend on a traditional influencer. And so I don’t think it’s that you necessarily need to have a large budget, but I do think you need to allocate your budget towards whatever KPI you have.

So if you have a smaller budget looking for a conversion for KPI, it’s probably not going to be really conducive to your goals. Versus if you have a smaller budget and you can align your influencer budget to be more awareness-focused or more content-focused you can then leverage into conversion via paid media.

But I hate the notion that like influencer is expensive and influencer doesn’t convert for us and influencer doesn’t work. And it’s just that’s not the case. Influencer does work and influencer doesn’t need to be expensive. You just need to manage your expectations around your KPIs based on your budget.

Jessy: And I also think like to that point too, I was just the other day. There is an art to negotiating. And what I mean by that is if you, let’s say have this ideal influencer that you just want to work with them, but you don’t necessarily have the budget that they are looking for as a former talent manager, myself, I’m so much more receptive and open to working with somebody if I’m like.

If someone approaches me in a reasonable way, like not cocky, not like it’s my way or the highway, you’re asking for too much, like stuff like that. But sometimes creators want to work with a partner and they’re willing to, do the first one at a discount. Or they’re like, you know what, if you purchase, three posts, I can give you a discount.

Some managers might say, if you work with five of my clients, I can give you a discount. So there are different ways to get to the same result, but I also want to hear from an agency’s perspective on this because I think it’ll be interesting to hear if you guys align or not. Do you think that small brands and or small budgets can utilize influencers or just should they wait till they have a budget?

Samantha Merkin: I think small brands or brands with smaller budgets, and I will say a lot of our brands have smaller budgets. And I think what attracts them to the influencer practice here is that we can do stuff for them on a small budget. Some of our best work comes out of a 10,000 influencer budget, and we’ve seen incredible results.

And I think that makes them really excited that there’s so much potential out there. Whether that’s, I think we did this campaign. We sold a shoe and we had $10,000 for micro-influencers we saw that 40% of sales were driven by the influencer length and the clients like to use that in a case study.

We use that now in a case study and it really helped them understand the influencers effective for the brand. So I think it’s really helpful to see that you can take, I would say a minimum of $10,000 is, is nice place to start and then. Obviously, you can go up from there, the more money you have We always say the more influencers you can get but we really say that you can start small And make an impact because those micro and mid-tier are really you know where you’re going to get that engagement. 

Jessy: And are any of you guys anyone on the stage? Combining a flat fee with maybe like affiliate or There are different ways to sweeten the pot, and to sweeten pie or whatever the phrase is. Is anyone seeing that or is it still 

Corinne Travis: pretty I did that for 10 years, that CJ. I would say I think we’re narrowing the conversation to flat fees when, like with your answers, we’ve seen so much success with gifting. There are also influencers out there that love a product and they’re going to talk about it no matter what. You don’t need to pay them 2,000. If you want dedicated content and you want this perfectly shaped content, sure.

But like people are going to talk, creators are going to talk about the brands that they love and you can pay them a commission on it. and get 2x return. So your budget is almost infinite in that way, because if you’re spending 10k and you’re making 20k then it doesn’t matter the small budget, right?

And so that’s, that’s also like core to flagship and just core of what I’ve done for the past like 12 years is very much like affiliate and working in those commissions and paying a creator percentage of the sale fair percentage of the sale none of this like 5 percent stuff.


Corinne Travis: But you can do that and still have a 2x X return 5 X return 10 X return.

Molly Tracy: It goes back to again like your expectations as a brand or if you are a brand that wants has really specific key messages and you want content that’s able to really hone in on those to convey to certain audiences like affiliates not going to be around, right? Because it’s a fair game. They can talk about whatever they want.

They can say whatever they want. Yeah. Whenever, however, wherever, whenever. But yeah, I think affiliate is, it’s obviously still very powerful. We have creators on our roster who are making well into six figures on affiliate and we have started to work on brand deals that are a mix of flat fee and affiliate, but it really depends on the creator and their conversion power.

We have creators who would be able to make five X on affiliates, which they could do for just a flat fee. $5,000 for. A story, but they can make upwards of 55, $50,000 on affiliates with the same brand. So it wouldn’t really make sense for us to do the story, right? It would make more sense for us to say, hey, cut us a 20 percent commission.

Let’s keep this ongoing. Then we don’t have to send you content for approval. We don’t have to do any of that. And our lives are all great. So it just depends on the creator and like how much they’re, how they’ve been able to convert their audience into shoppers and buyers. 

Corinne Travis: And as a brand just starting out, like really just starting out, look at who’s talking about you now. Look at, who’s tagging you in Instagram stories, reach out to them, 

Jessy: I love that. Yeah. I also just, I always just want to be respectful and inclusive of those people who are maybe just starting out. If you want to, if you believe in the creator economy, but you’re not, you don’t necessarily have the funds yet or giant budgets.

Like I don’t want to be snooty about it and be like you don’t have a place at the table. Like I hear all your points. I just think you need to approach it differently. It’s just, it’s not the same. 

Julian Greene: I think it comes like one of the most powerful things is the founder story. And what is, what makes that brand really special?

Like when you don’t have any budget and you’re starting out, what are the defining reasons that make your brand special that consumers want to buy? Like the beauty of a creator is, I’m following them and I trust their recommendations and a brand that’s just waiting to be discovered, if they can insert themselves in that narrative, it’s going to help their followers so much too.

I think that when you don’t have a budget really think within yourselves and be like what are the value propositions that I provide? And like why do I align with that creator? But that creator is going to want to test and try your product because it’s adding value to their business and their community is going to feel so much more connected to them because they feel like, oh wow, the creator that I follow they’re not just doing hashtag ad every day.

It feels authentic. They’re providing value to me. So there’s like absolutely room at the table for small businesses. It’s just I wouldn’t recommend starting out with a crazy budget because you’re not gonna see a direct return. No one’s heard of your brand before. So… 

Aana Leech: I’m sorry. I was just going to ask a question to you guys to know. I think like something that is really difficult in the position that we’re in. Is trying to convey that strategy to brands because brands of all sizes come and say oh influencers like awareness metrics done and so it’s just like there’s these expectations that are just completely unrealistic and there is this like Influencer marketing is not a monolith there’s a bajillion way to work with influencers work with creators like to achieve your end result But it is viewed very much in my opinion as a one kind of tactic thing.

Yeah. And so like, how do we try to change that narrative so that as new brands are coming online, as they’re thinking of using Influencer Marketing, which is an incredibly powerful tactic, and, brands that are starting off with Influencer marketing, they’re bought in from the beginning, they’re seeing those results, they’re going to be, they’re going to grow into larger customers for anyone who’s working with a brand. Like, how do we try and change that narrative for them from the beginning? 

Jessy: I love that. 

Molly Tracy: We forget that there’s a test-and-learn period, too, for brands. Even if a brand, a new brand comes to you and says, I have a hundred thousand dollars to spend. This is the very first campaign that we’re going to execute.

It’s the job of the agency, or whoever’s working with them to manage the expectations that there will be a test and learn a period you’ve never worked an influencer before. You have no idea really who your target market is in terms of who’s actually responding to content online about you. You’ve never run a campaign before, so you don’t know what type of content is resonating.

Is it? Get ready with me. Is it morning routines? What does that look like? And it’s going to take time for you guys to test and learn from Influencers. And also, just the feedback that you will get from creators’ communities. You might think that our value prop is that, I don’t know, for AG.

I work with AG a lot. Maybe our value prop is we’re a greens powder, even though they’re not anymore. Just so you know, they’re more than that. Oh, okay. Hot take. Part of their messaging. Hot take. But that might have been their value prop first, right? We’re a greens powder. It’s an easy way to get your greens in.

But the feedback that the influencers are getting from their community when they’re posting is Oh, I actually love that this is less expensive for me because I already bought a probiotic and a multivitamin and a mineral and I’m spending 200 on that a month and I can get this now for 79.99.

And that’s not even a message you led within the creative, right? And there’s a lot of test and learning that happens with influencer campaigns that I think we forget about as agencies first. It’s going to take us time to Lay the land and understand what’s resonating with creators in terms of type of content and also just audience sentiment So that’s just important to know that there is a test and learn period and that takes some time to really figure out and Hone in on all those key messages and the types of content that’s resonating 

Jessy: I think I lean into that too. Don’t even just oh, it’s like I’m gonna go through you know It’s no that could be such an interesting time and so much Like that will give you so much information that will lay the foundation for everything you can do in the future. So it’s almost a misstep if you go over too quickly.

Molly Tracy: It’s just paid social, right? Like your AB test all day long. And you should look at influencer marketing as AB testing. You should be consistently AB testing your communities and the creators that you’re working with. 

Samantha Merkin: I was going to say, I think it’s all about to set the expectations, especially if brands have never done influencer before, I think.

To your point, Ana, they think of it one way, but it’s different for, there are so many different ways to go about it. So I think it’s important to set up the reporting or the measure of success in the beginning. Like how do you want to measure your campaign? And then afterward, did this go up to your standards or did people completely not like the content or people saying something totally different, and how are people reacting to it?

And then you can adjust for the next campaign. Then maybe you adjust your process like I think, yes, there’s a process from beginning to end, but I think you also can adjust it accordingly because every brand is different. Every influencer is different and influencers can bring their own feedback too, which I think is really crucial. And I always appreciate it at least from an agency perspective because I think their insights are sometimes more valuable than a consumer’s. 

Jessy: And you have to give them space to be able to provide those insights, too. I feel like a lot of creators are like, ooh is it okay to give you feedback?

A lot of them just want to do right, and they want to do the campaign as best they can, and they just think they have to do this prescribed thing, but I agree with you. Some of that feedback is really interesting. I have a follow-up question for you, because, as someone who works with so many brands, I’ve never worked on the agency side before.

I’ve only worked on the talent side. So I’m curious about the approach that you take in terms of, establishing, the KPIs and establishing the managing expectations. Do you ask the clients and say what would like to do here? Or do you normally take the reins, or this is what I think is best? What approach do you take does it vary and how do you determine? 

Samantha Merkin: Yeah, so we depend a lot on our client briefs they will tell us this is an awareness campaign or we want a conversion campaign I’m looking straight at my strategic analytics partner over there Anastasia who loves influencers almost as much as I do, maybe more.

We partner really closely with our strategic analytics team to ensure that we are laddering up to the client’s business goals and we propose a plan for them. We say, here’s your business goal. What are your KPIs? What do you wanna measure? We let them react to that and then, they can say, oh, we actually wanna add this to it.

Can we do link clicks? Can we do this? And then, we show them this is our proposal. This is how we’re going to measure it. And then about a month later, we measure it. And then we say, Hey, this is what we did for you. Remember, this is what you aligned on reminding them slightly again and again.

So just make sure that they know and say, yes, we did align and we did achieve your goals. I think also, again, going back to expectations is really important because Sometimes they want those immediate results and they’re like where’s my awareness I don’t see it. And it’s a slower, sometimes steady pace.

And I think setting those expectations with them and reminding them of those things is important. 

Jessy: Okay, so I have a follow-up question for you. So my question is, what types of metrics are the most meaningful in order to prove our ROI after an accident? 

Aana Leech: This is all of this conversation is very helpful. So I think so from the platform perspective, so we’re trying to productize everything that you’re talking about, which we’re working through a very subjective, emotional process of creating content and working with people. And like my job is to try and make that into a product where you go from here to there to the other place and you accomplish all of these things with a couple of clicks of a button and everybody’s very happy and rosy on the other side both from the brand side and also from the creator side and it is incredibly difficult and the conversation around KPIs is a place that I think the testing mentality really comes into play because we are trying to figure out how to identify like What this phase of going from I’m just entering into influencer marketing to now, I’m like scaling up my activations.

I really know what channels I’m working on. I know what communities I can tap into so I can get the results and the KPIs that I’m looking for, but also trying to identify or help the customer identify on the platform what are they looking for. And that’s a really hard question to get a direct response to, because you get a, typically get a mixed bag I want it all and I think the power of influencer marketing really can be unlocked if you have this approach of testing and learning for very specific KPIs, as you were saying, and then being able to identify what’s working, moving from there and building out, strategy.

It’s a hard question to answer. It’s, for me, it’s really about just what’s the goal? How are you trying to test and see which one of these things you’re unlocking versus what your goal is, and then continuing to diversify what channels you’re testing on and learning, as you’re going and growing into your strategy? I love that. 

Molly Tracy: No, I was just gonna say, I think it’s another conversation to have with brands KPIs. We want awareness. What does that mean to you? Does that mean an increase in Google searches? Does that mean an increase in website hits for you? Does that just mean, impressions?

Does that mean new followers for you on your own social channels? What does that look like? Or if it’s conversion, okay what does that mean to you? Do you have specific ROADS goals? What are they? What is your attribution window? That’s something I’ve started to ask even more now. Are we looking at a 24-hour attribution window?

If so I don’t know that we can probably 2x that on a single story. Can I get the product early? Can we do some organic posting before in order to get us to that 2x? And are you working on a 30-day attribution window? Even better if you are. Because that gives us time to do more organic mentions and things.

I think the idea of ROI and awareness versus conversion like it’s deeper than that. There are more questions to be asked besides just like these are our main two things that we’re looking at. 

Jessy: I love that. No, perfect. And I True. And it means different things.

Molly Tracy: It means different things.

Awareness means different things to everybody. 

Jessy: Absolutely.

Julian Greene:  And half the time they’re not even thinking about that.

Jessy: So I think it’s important. We all challenge ourselves. They often don’t. 

Julian Greene: They don’t tell if you’re working with a client. Exactly. Exactly. That’s why I’m blown away that your clients actually understand like, what are the metrics that I’m working towards? Because I was like, that’s unbelievable. 

Jessy: This is a campaign. 

Julian Greene: This is a conversion campaign.

Samantha Merkin: I have to give major credit to our strategic analytics team because the. I would not be able to do half of my job without them. And I think they are really good at telling a story. And I think based on my partnership with them, it’s all about how to tell a really good data story.

And again, I think Molly, what you said really resonated. What does awareness mean to you? For one client, it may mean new Instagram followers, but for another client, it may mean impressions. So really like level setting that and asking them the hard questions. Just had to do that today, I think, is really important.

Molly Tracy: I’m just obsessed that you have a strategic analytics team.

Samantha Merkin: Yeah. Everyone go talk to Anastasia after this. 

Molly Tracy: When I was working brand side, we were keeping track of things in Google Sheets. We did not do anything, no platforms existed. I love that y’all even have that.

Jessy: Oh, yeah. Kudos. And this is a great follow-up question for you, Samantha. With all of that being said about what we just discussed, what would be your pitch to a brand that’s hesitant to spend money on influencer marketing? What would you say is the reason that they spend money on influencers? Now this is Shartank, I know, and 

Samantha Merkin: I love Shartank.I think I would want to craft, and tell them a story. And I like to resonate with the brand, or the person in the room who do you like to follow, what do you, or, hopefully, they’re on social media. I think, or even it doesn’t have to be a social person if you follow, like, when you think back all the way to I used to love Ellen DeGeneres she, to me, is like an OG influencer, or celebrities technically are a form of influence, or any type of person That you trust is a form of influencer.

So if you try to resonate with them on a personal level, I feel like that really helps, and showing them that there are people that are interested in your brand, I think is really helpful. And I think also talking about how influencers can help your brand ecosystem. It’s not just about social content, right?

You can use an influencer in your CRM campaign. You can use an influencer on a TV spot. We’ve done that for a brand. You can use them in online voiceover. I think really teaching them that influencers are not just this, again, back to this monolith. They’re not a monolith. And I think also about seeing how they can translate to ROI.

Can we capture data for brands for them? Because if people trust them. We can get that first-party data capture. So I think it’s really crafting the story and understanding their goals I think 

Jessy: that’s great. Anyone else want to chime in on that? What would you be pitching? Anything you want to add to what Samantha said?

Corinne Travis: I think the storytelling is spot on and like when you’re trying to secure a bigger budget There’s typically a different strategy or a different creator or different Ways that you can work with a single or five creators, right? If you only work with these five you get this if you work with 20 You might be paying a little bit more but we can do something for six months or we can double down on this one creator that you love like But I think that all starts with what are their goals?

What are they trying to accomplish? And diving deep into it. And the briefs are a great example of really collecting that information and then you can use that to create the vision and create the story and hopefully 

Jessy: upsell. I think also just any success story, any case studies that you have a track of them and keep them in your back pocket because those are the moments where like they shouldn’t be pie in the sky stories like oh my god this one time I hired this influencer for five dollars and they earned us a million no make it sound attainable but keep track of your success stories too I’m just so cognizant of especially in this economy like people are just constantly trying to earn In a variety of different ways, lots of healthy competition, but I want to have in our respective back pockets the pitch, like what that sounds like.

And I know that it takes a lot of effort to hone it in. And it’s just something we’re thinking about. So I love this conversation. 

Aana Leech: I think too, like a part of me is like bristling and being like why do we even have to pitch it at this point? It’s like it’s been 10 plus years. Like you were just saying influencer marketing is nothing new.

These have been, endorsements have been around forever. Wheaties boxes. I’m just like, it’s, a part of me is just oh, either get with the times and see this as a value add and think through what your strategy is because it is not this oh, just put something out there and get everything back.

It’s it is a strategy. It is a sophisticated marketing space. And a part of me is just angry. 

Julian Greene: I think it’s important, though, that at at the end of the day, they need to really identify what are they trying to get from it. And I think that right now, we’re out of space. We’re like, the more that we can share these different ways that we’ve really seen success with creators, the more we all win.

Because I think, Jessie, to your point I can’t tell you how many companies I’ve spoken to where they’re like, I spent all this money working with creators and I saw nothing. And there are so many levels to why it didn’t work. And so I think the more everyone level sets and really thinks about like we all want to win here.

We all want to see success. And so if you are a company that’s just directly looking for sales, like join flagship, we’re a performance-based channel that allows creators just to make money when they sell. If you’re looking to really run a branded campaign, that’s where I met Corinne. I did this massive Nike deal with some of my clients when I had a management company where we were, we built branded content for them and they ran ads.

And I think so much of this is like people very polarizing voices thinking they know everything and like we don’t and so I really want to implore all of us to strategically think about what were my goals because I actually really don’t know like we were talking earlier how do you build a campaign that’s rooted in like here’s a flat fee plus commission scale it to infinity I want to learn that like I want to build that next to someone because I haven’t done it before and so I think the more that we can really intrinsically learn from one another and identify those goals, but no one really knows the goals, too.

But map them all out. I think that it’ll help everyone in terms of really growing, because Influencer is not new. But I think we’re definitely at this breaking point of really feeling like there are many different ways to activate creators. And we all need to collaborate and learn from one another.

Jessy: We can… I think, what I think of when you answer that question is thinking about how all of us, individually, everybody, wants to be picked. Think about it from the opposite perspective, right? I may be unique. I hate a hard pitch. Oh my god, I’m so turned off by it. But if someone approached me, like you just said, and was like, we work really hard to learn it.

And we dig really deep into things, and I don’t know, just from a, Like a reasonable sort of Humility, 

Julian Greene: like at the end of the day to me, creators are just people and there’s such beauty and all of their community members trusting them, right? And as a consumer how do you want to learn about a product?

I actually completely am averse to like seeing an ad, like a hashtag ad and I’m not going to really click on that link, to be honest with you But if you talk about a product over and over and over again, I’m gonna click on that. And so I think think about, it’s so ridiculous, like marketing 101.

Jessy: Think about how you will buy a product and like activate influencers in that way. And I feel like to that point, people try to keep that stuff under wraps. We work in this industry and we’re like, oh, maybe I’m just like desensitized to it. And like maybe I’m the only one that’s turned off by X, Y, and Z.

No, actually like trust those instincts and talk about those things more. It’s okay if you if you feel like that, then there’s way more. There are other people who also feel like that, and I think that’s what will make you stand apart. It’s just approaching things differently. I personally get a little tired of The lack of innovation that I see in our industry sometimes and I’m very inspired when I see innovation.

So speaking of a follow up question for you, big question, but how can we work with influencers better? 

Julian Greene: So Corinne and I had a lovely day in Chicago and we met up with a local creator for Instagram’s Kelly in the city. We had an amazing coffee and we were talking about the growth of her business. She started her blog 12 years ago.

She met her husband. In New York City, she just started shooting her life. And we were talking about just the evolution of her business, and one thing really stood out to me. We were talking about just the way that she runs her business working with brands. And at the end of the day, if I’m a creator I’m someone who, I’m really thinking about, okay, what are my revenue streams coming in, right?

And, for her, they can make a lot of money from brand deals. But she started working with a lot of brands, there’s a lot of regulations around these activations. And so one example, she worked with Pfizer. And she, it took six months to get the, I don’t know if anyone did this campaign. Okay.

Samantha Merkin: It took a long time. 

Julian Greene: Now. And yeah, and she, so she really wanted to talk about this activation, like outside of the, the campaign brief. And there was a lot of back and forth with brand where they made her take everything down. And I think what happened was, It made the, it made her really feel nervous about just like talking organic ally about a product and having fun playing, like we were talking about like creators play, have fun and really talk about a brand outside of when like you’re doing that sponsored activation.

There’s a creator on Molly’s roster, Jess Keys, who lives in Chicago, and I think she does an amazing job with that, like playing with the brands that she loves. And so I think I’m totally losing where the question was, but I hope that answered that. 

Jessy: Where do we go with that? It’s like, how can you work with influencers better?

Julian Greene: Yes, allow them to play. Allow them to be themselves. Exactly, be themselves. And I think when you put up those guardrails, it makes them feel nervous. And they’re human beings, and they’re a solo team. You’re a massive conglomerate that’s giving them these crazy budgets and all they wanna do is be their best.

So let them play, let them have fun. And I think when you’re putting those restrictions on them, what’s gonna happen? It’s just gonna have this long-term trickle effect on how they perform. 

Samantha Merkin: So let them play. I think from an agency perspective, because we try to preach that all the time, and we have to say, these are human beings, but they’re not paid actors.

We’re not telling them what to do. We obviously give them guidelines and we give them guardrails. But you’re hiring them for a reason. You’re hiring them because people trust them in their community. So you can either hire a paid actor or you can hire an influencer if you want to see where the content will go, because it’s going to be so much more beneficial if they are allowed to talk how they want to, and then you’re going to reap the repercussions if they can’t talk how they want to.

I know healthcare is even a different beast of a tone, but I think even example, Pfizer is really starting to understand. Okay, I actually do need to let someone talk about this, or else they’re not going to see the benefits. No 

Julian Greene: one’s going to click on it. You’re not going to see the impact that you wanted to.

Corinne Travis:Yeah, the  most successful campaigns I worked on were those that were like, very loose. Sure, if there’s like a specific, word you want to use to describe your product, but when there’s like pages and pages of do this, don’t do this, like this is how you need to stand when you’re photographing our, stop.

Molly Tracy: We love a 20 page brief. 

Jessy: Stop. 

Samantha Merkin: Ours are usually longer, but it’s just I’ve never seen those work. 

Molly Tracy: It goes back to the innovation, too, because I find that, as well. Obviously, we work on a lot of campaigns. And I think the antiquated version of five frames, face to camera, voice over the discount code, post, doc.

The minute I’m like we don’t consume content that way and we don’t shop that way like truly like none of us in this room It probably swiped up from a face to camera. I love this product so much like it hasn’t happened. But somehow we’ve gotten into the space We’re like this works that this is how we need to do stories and here’s how we pull things together And I think that’s like that’s the thing that I’m trying to get away from of can we split it up?

Can we do two frames one day and three the next can we do still shots? Can we do like quick follow ups like? What can it look like instead of just feeling so scripted and so like we just get stuck into this space of this like here’s how stories should look and that just no one shops like that no 

Julian Greene: One’s buying from that I think so and I think it’s because like I, it blows me away that there’s been such a lack of innovation for creators.

I think because so much of the money comes from brands saying, I want this, the creators have no stake in any of this. And so that’s why I’m so bullish on what we’re building at flagship. Our entire business model is how can creators make a real living from their followers, first and foremost, point blank.

So they can be more selective with the brands that are coming in. They’re working with. And I think like the more creators actually have control over this whole industry. The more we get away from these very rigid structured activations that no one wants. We need to play more, and there needs to be more innovation that allows creators to really shine and thrive.

Because there hasn’t been a whole lot of that, and I think that’s why we’re stuck in this I guess this is what we’re gonna do. 

Jessy: And just so much more education for creators as well. I always there’s such a lack of infirmary, of correct infirmary, I mean you can find any answer on anything on TikTok or whatever, I mean you know, it’s, it would behoove them so much to Awareness of these conversations even, because they are only, they work in a silo.

And so especially if they’re not managed, that’s just them and they have no point of reference and they want to do right by their employer at the time. Who’s whatever brands, but I love what you guys are building. And I love it when there are other opportunities for creators to monetize because.

It lowers the stakes a bit when you get a brand partnership and it allows them that ability to feel a little bit more, feel more comfortable with it. The stakes aren’t so high that it makes people feel uncomfortable and rigid if all of their eggs aren’t in one brand partnership basket. 

Julian Greene: Operate from a place of abundance and not scarcity.They are in control because they really are. But we’re not, they’re not, they don’t have a stake in the conversation and, they’re not, but they are the ones building this, 

Jessy: Yep. Okay. We probably should talk about predictions a little bit. Corinne, I will ask you that question. Do you have any predictions for Q4?

We’re in a very pivotal time of year. Any predictions for Q4? 

Corinne Travis: everyone I’m sure, hopefully, in this room is spending time on. Yeah, a few. I think it’s a general question. There could be so many things that happen. But, from a brand point of view, I definitely see, and I would love your take on this too like I definitely see brands wanting to spend, but there’s going to be way more pressure on like returns, return on ad spend.

Even if their goal is awareness, like you’re not really trying to drive awareness over the holidays, your sales, right? So that may come up in maybe they want more discounted rates, maybe the budget is tighter. Maybe the commissions get cut, but some fun ways that I’ve seen it come up are performance bonuses.

So this is something we’re actually doing with Flagship too, but you hit X amount of sales, X amount of clicks, and we’ll give you a bonus. So maybe that flat fee to the creator might be a little bit less, like maybe if their rate is 5, they are, pitching for 4, but there’s a 2K bonus involved or something, right?

And that’s a strategic way, especially from a brand. Point of view if you don’t have a ton of budget to work with creators and incentivize them. Everyone loves a bonus. And then from the creator’s point of view, this is something we saw last year that I think we’ll see a lot more. Is creators are, their central hubs?

They’re a central shopping hub and they serve their community, especially around holidays. What are you shopping for? You see this all the time, right? What are you shopping for? It’s the Sephora sale. What are you shopping for? And then they go and hunt that down with holiday that usually we see like spreadsheets.

I don’t know if you guys saw this like last year, but it’s click the link in my bio for a spreadsheet of every sale I know. And I think that’s going to continue and I’m so proud of what we’re building at flagship. And I know you see this on LTK too, but it’s like head to my shop.

So your flagship shop, it’s like literally a storefront head to my shop. You’ll see all the items are already discounted. They’re all on sale already. All my picks, add them to the cart one single checkout, just making that customer experience and that shopper experience so much easier. And I think ultimately that’s what creators do.And that’s how they serve their community. So more of that, hopefully, it’s not a spreadsheet.

Jessy: Hopefully it’s more flagship shops, talk about like things that we genuinely respond to. I love a good, curated list for my make my life easier to shop for what I would tell me

what you’re buying. Cause I’m going to buy it. Read a blog post. Yeah. No. She’s like a blog. It’s a gift guide. It’s a gift guide. It’s a gift guide. It’s a gift guide. 

Corinne Travis: But also even within the gift guide, what do I need to buy? Like you have 20 gifts for your mom. What do I, like a gift guide sometimes makes us the consumers do the work.

But if you tell me. Every day here’s the product you should buy. Here’s what’s on sale. Here’s what you should buy today. Oh God, I’m so going to buy whatever you 

Jessy: tell me to value. You’re giving so much value. It depends. If you’re targeted, the audience are like professionals, busy women, men, whatever that is they appreciate the heck out of that.

Just like saving me time. Get me a code, and tell me where to buy it. Yes, a hundred percent. Does anyone else want to chime in on predictions for Q4? I’ll open it up. 

Molly Tracy: I hope it’s dollars. No, I think interestingly enough, a lot of the agency friends I’ve talked to have said that they are shifting the budget for Q4 and actually turning to IRL events, which like pre-COVID me loves, talent manager me does not.

But I do think it’s great that like we’re starting to see a lot more brand activations. I also think going back to the conversation around oh I don’t have a lot of budget and I want to get started. I do think that activations and events are relatively low cost for you to dip your toe in the water.

Like you can throw a decent brunch for 10k and invite 20 creators and now you have a bunch of creators that are posting about you. They’re like, they’re taking product home, they’re testing and learning, they’re just posting about you organically. Whereas if you were to pay those 20 creators to actually post about you, you’re probably looking at a 50 K spend.

Do you save yourself 40, 000 and now you have an incredible amount of impressions? So that’s also another way that you can get your foot in the door for 

Jessy: eligibility. I love that. And just like creating buzz around your brand, like people see that there’s Oh, there’s this event and they’re all these cool people there.

It creates conversation or buzz or whatever it is. And like just the moment in time that like last. Long beyond that. 

Molly Tracy: I love that founders like you get to have a great founder story. They connect with the brand. They feel a lot more invested than they do just like sending them a PR package and a flat fee to post.

Corinne Travis: And I would say do if you guys are brands and you’re thinking about this, do it in Do it now. , do it in October. If you get the product into the hands of creators in October, you’ll see it in a gift guide. You’ll see more organic stories, and then when they circle back with a sale. For Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, like sales will spike.But if you have an event on December 2nd, like that’s hard.

Jessy: Yeah. I’m like putting out there what you would love to have in exchange, like in return, be like, if you have any gift guides, feel free to include us, how can we help you? Also, I think it’s a really great question to just put out there for creators, this idea of collaboration is a really powerful thing. You’ve been talking about like events and stuff and it’s maybe it’s like a co-branded thing. Like maybe, there’s a food brand that partners with a clothing brand. And so like the clothes could be like, I’m making this up, like a runway show, like the entertainment.

But then you have this like delicious food and then you don’t have to pay a caterer. And then the caterer doesn’t have to pay, the food company doesn’t have to pay for entertainment. It’s just like co-branded. I’ve seen really interesting events and trips, just experiences happening in the creator space that had a lot of longevity far beyond the initial activation.

Molly Tracy: Though that Dubai trip was more than 10k. 

Jessy: That was crazy. 

Samantha Merkin: I think Molly, when you said dollars, I actually thought A lot of brands will be like, Oh, I have 10, 000 left over, right? 20, 000 left over. What can I do in these two weeks before Christmas? Can’t you do an influencer campaign for me? And you’re like, Oh yeah, of course.

So I think about it. That’s my prediction for Q4. Usually, you think it slows down, but it actually ramps up because people are like, Oh, I have all this extra money. What’s something really fast? I can, you can do a TV commercial in two weeks. You can do an influencer campaign in two weeks. So I think for us, we reap the benefits from other brands, leftover money.Yeah. Yeah. That’s so true. End a quarter budget and a year budget, like they’re going to run out earlier, have a lot of extra. 

Jessy: From your mouth. They’re hoping for extra. Extra. They’re really getting extra because they’ve invested in affiliate and sold 5x and now they have extra.

So we are going to open it up to the audience. You guys, we’re also recording this live for our podcast, so if you ask a question right now, you’ll also get onto our podcast. So don’t be shy. And Miss Katie Stoller is going to come meet you with a microphone. I think Desiree has a question. She should get a round of applause for walking in the shoes.

Julian Greene: I know. Yeah! 

Jessy: Unbelievable! Yes! Okay. 

Desiree: Hi, I’m Desiree. I’m a creator. And this conversation I find very interesting and insightful because I talk with a ton of creators too. Especially in the women’s space. And you guys have talked about a lot of things about how creators have control and creators build on the audiences and creators give value But why aren’t we really being paid for that?

Aana Leech: And so because creating content takes a lot of time and resources And doing things for product and commissions isn’t enough. So what are we supposed to do to be what you guys need us to be? But we also have families to pay for and lives live and the skyrocketing inflation to deal with. And so I know you guys have to balance that as well.

But from the creator side, I talked to a ton of creators who are in this constant state that no one wants to pay me. What am I supposed to do? And so they’re trying to leave and get away from it and stuff. One of the three things that all creators talk about is making money in AdSense, sponsors, and affiliates.

And when all three of those things are down, what are we supposed to do? When you say down. 

Corinne Travis: Like you’re not getting the sponsorships that you once did or? Yeah, like affiliate, like a lot of people in the affiliate space are cutting programs, getting rid of them completely, or minimizing how long payouts will be for.

Or, and then ads are down across the board with YouTube with, because people aren’t paying for them as much and they got split with shorts, so it becomes an issue there, and then when you talk about like sponsorships, sponsors get to, are told, you don’t have to pay, you can just give them free products and affiliates, and if they’re not, and you don’t, if they don’t want to accept that, we’ll go find someone who will.

Corinne Travis: Sure. Fair. Yeah. I think there are platforms that do it right. So Flagship, any brand on Flagship has to have at least 20 percent commissions. There are brands that, or sorry, there’s platforms like Howl that have, I’ve seen 150 percent commissions. So I know to your point it’s not guaranteed.

You have to put more maybe time and effort into it, but there are platforms that promote paying creators fairly at that rate. And then I would also say if it, the time that it takes to build your content I hope that’s worked into your price, too, right? 

So when there is a sponsorship that comes around you are, being paid fairly.I will say there are times when, you know, if it’s your dream brand and they can’t pay you your fair, what you deserve, but there’s an opportunity for multiple posts. Then it could be, maybe discounted, but I think yeah, I think you’ve said it too, that there’s, and I’ve heard from other creators, that like the pool of sponsorships is like, it feels like it’s a little more dried up now.

Brands are definitely pulling back on the money. There’s not as much as there was five years ago, where it was just like, cool, we can throw money at anything and anyone, and we’ll just see what happens. Some brands are beyond that, but there’s a lot of other new brands that are coming in. If there’s brands that you just love all the time, organically reach out to them.

Pitch them. Don’t wait for them to come to you. I love your brand. This is how I talk about it. People love it. I typically see this conversion rate and would love to talk to you and work with you more closely. We’ve seen that work, too. 

Molly Tracy: I do think it’s important as a creator to know your strengths, though.

And this is where I see, not, I think, not, I don’t want to say the issue, but this is where I see discrepancies in the creator economy of, can you convert, and are you a converting creator, or are you a content creator? Are you an influencer, and can you, do you have true influence over your audience to shift brand perspective or purchase, or are you a content creator?

So I think the hard thing about being a content creator and not having an audience that you’ve trained to shop and pitching DTC brands that are solely convergent focused, IE, AG, Ritual, Brooklinen, et cetera, that doesn’t make sense for you because you haven’t trained your audience to shop with them, whereas Ritual doesn’t necessarily need content, right?

Where there’s a lot of brands that are road, for instance, Fenty, they’re desperate for content. They want to work with content creators and they’re allowed, they’re able to work on an awareness-based campaign. So it’s you have to know your strengths as a creator. Sometimes it can be both. This is my thing I think You can be an influencer.

That’s also a content creator, but you probably are not a content creator That’s also an influencer. So know your strengths and pitch accordingly and pitch the brands accordingly 

Julian Greene: I would also say to remember if you like why did you start this you are an entrepreneur first and foremost And I think like we’re very narrow-minded right now sponsorships affiliate ad dollars There are actually so many other ways to make money.

Like I’ve become really inspired by Substack recently make money from your followers and build a facebook group. Like if you really want to put your heart into this. There’s so many other ways to build community and I think community really is a strength of a creator So it makes me really sad that I think like it’s just like this weird like rigamarole between creators and brands and as a creator Like you really are the one with the you won’t have a superpower here But I think it’s important to remember like you are the entrepreneur and there’s other Platforms out there that you can build community and at the end of the day like if you own that relationship with your follower They’re gonna go with you forever in person events.

There’s so much that can happen but if UGC, if building content is your superpower there are a lot of platforms now that are really investing in UGC. So I think it’s just like really understanding who you are. But I’m really bullish on community. That is, to me the future of all this.

It’s community-led commerce and people really admire someone and just trust everything that they say and want to subscribe to that. 

Aana Leech: And I think you’re that’s such a great point because I think the stock of your community is something that’s going to continue to grow, like if you’re focused on it because it’s not something that someone else will own.

It’s like something you own. So if you think of it like a business, like there’s no like V. C. Involved here. There’s no middleman. It’s just you like you own that whole thing. So I think that’s a really strong point to just think of how you can start diversifying your platforms and like really engaging your community because there’s also like Brands are having a harder time, like tapping into communities.

There’s been a lot of roadblocks thrown at them in the last couple of years. So that access is being denied, but you have carte blanche access there. So I think that that’s a… 

Jessy: Last thing I’ll say, and is just that everyone in this room who’s a creator, and that can take many different forms, always be trying to narrow down how you are like nobody else, so that when you are pitching to whoever it is, whether it’s your followers to buy from you, a brand to, pay you, whomever it is they almost have no choice.

Because by the time you’ve finished your pitch, your sentence, they’re like, wow you’re perfect for me. And it’s such a good match. And I don’t know anyone else who’s doing exactly what you’re doing. I think a trap that influencers fall into is they just try to follow what everybody else is doing because it looks successful.

And I understand that cerebrally, but when you’re trying to pitch someone to actually pay you, isn’t it way more likely to have success if you’re the one and you don’t have all this competition? 

Samantha Merkin: I was going to say that I look for people that stand out. I don’t. Look for people that look alike or like their feeds look the same I think also if they are nice to me back.

I think a positive Relationship is very important and how you treat someone. It’s like how you want to be treated goes a really long way and I think that also opens the doors to many opportunities you know here we have 45 brands if I like you for one brand I’m probably gonna want to use you for another brand Or if someone asks me, Oh, do you know anyone in this category?

I want to recommend you for something else because I want you to also get the payment that you deserve. And I also, we would never personally let someone do content for free because that is very integral in our practice is that everyone should be paid fairly. And I’ve had creators or influencers come to me and say, I’ll do it for a 500.

And I’m like, I cannot justify. Because I know how much time it takes for all of you, so I think it’s important to really think about, I think, Molly or Corinne, you said, Corinne, you said it make sure you’re really accounting for the time that you’re spending, because it’s well worth it for the brand, because it would take them double the amount of time to create that content, or the agency for that matter, so really consider that when you’re doing your budget.All right. 

Jessy: Who else has a question? Anybody? Oh, we have someone enthusiastically in the back. Welcome to the club. Me too, girl. All right. Katie’s making her way. What? Hi. I got into a really heated debate with one of my clients recently about curated versus scale, right? For anyone who’s been in this industry for a really long time, the scale was all the rage a while ago, and then it went really curated, especially in the light of brand safety and the arduous vetting that we now have to do.

So I’m curious about your perspective. Like, where are you seeing it go? Are you all for scale? Or are you also seeing it get much more curated in terms of programming that we’re activating? think that’s so hard to answer.

Molly Tracy: I think it’s campaign-specific. I think it’s content or excuse me, brand category specific.I think there’s something different to be, to look at like beauty versus pharma or something. I think it’s also is it a product launch or not. Is it something that has really strong key messaging, like a pharma product or not? I don’t know, like we work, I feel like. When I was agency side, like I worked on both we had some that we were just like, get it out to as many people as possible.

It’s a new launch. We just need impressions. Like we need eyeballs on this. And then we had other campaigns that we worked on that were very small, very curated. This was like a specific brand collab or something like that. So I don’t know. And I feel like the talent side like we’re still working a lot on both.

Some like I’ll get a campaign and say Hey, you’re one of five influencers that we’re working with on this. And we have really specific messaging and we picked you because of X, Y, and Z. I think especially like for your niche, like we’re getting, I feel like, more niche campaigns than ever. Like the most like wild things that I’m just like, I don’t need, I like will write back and be like, I don’t even know how you’re going to find this.

Best of luck. I feel like I say that all the time. So yeah, I think, but we were also still getting some that are very like in mass at scale, new product launch type thing. So I feel like it’s hard to answer. FCP probably better.

Samantha Merkin: I would say we used to do more scale and now it’s much more curated and Clients are also, they don’t want it to look like a TV ad.

They don’t want it to look really puff. They want it to look like the influencer’s feed. And what we do actually during our selects process and the briefing is we show them what their content looks like, or inspirational content is what we call it, and be like, this is the content that we like for them to post, and we want them to emulate that.

And it looks authentic. It looks raw. It looks real. It might be them literally with their phone, or might, or maybe it is more produced. So I think we’ve definitely shifted, but again, I think Malie, to your point, it does depend on brand goals, product launch, and all those other factors. 

Aana Leech: I think we’ve also seen like a huge evolution in what the platforms are offering and what they’re and how you’re executing, 10 years ago, if you had 500 followers Whoa, you were a rock star.

And you only had a feed post to be able to like, make an impact. And today on Instagram, you have four different ways to reach your audience. And so I think as we’re starting to see the platforms diversify what they have and what they can offer brands and where creators can post and where they can reach their audiences like we’re starting to see this like focusing in or honing in on like leveraging these different placements for different purposes and that scaled activation still cool and yeah that’s fun to do you know it’s like a flash mob that’s really fun I don’t I definitely see like that kind of And we’ve seen many like more like long brand ambassador relationship building campaigns and getting away from more of those scaled  activations. 

Corinne Travis:Scale can also mean like it has legs, right? Like you can still work with five or 10 influencers and have a campaign at scale because of the way they activate their community. And those are the ones that I feel. Really succeed. I love how you said flash mob because like how many times have you guys followed creators?

Like you have all your creators you’re scrolling through Instagram and you literally see the same ad from five people you follow like that was old school though Like I tell you what happened. It’s like how we activated for years I know but I’m on that 50 creators like go live like hat is when I think when brands think about scale that’s what they think about and it’s like. You can have a creator activate her community and that creates legs like we see creators repost Their creators takes on a product right and then they’re using that content.

They’re not even producing that new content. They’re like my people love LaCroix And this is these are their flavors and they’re literally reposting what someone else told them right and that’s that has legs that have scale without using 500 creators Or 50 that post on the same day. I just don’t do that.

I just think that yeah, that’s true I just hate the word scale. I feel like that’s the dirtiest. It only exists in like product like let’s build a product to scale yeah, 

Jessy: I just think that I love hearing it too, And like authentic I love that word. Oh, yeah, that’s another good one I just think that you know broadly I think that influencer marketing when it’s done at its It’s is a relationship business like Desiree to your question.

It’s like, how do you get more business? It’s like you in this time when it’s maybe a little quieter and for everyone who has a business when it’s a little quieter go and get coffee. Go and build those relationships up and become a relationship business. I just that’s the opposite of a scalable business literally the opposite of a scale.

I know the sentiment that you’re going after, though, and there’s something there to it. I just like I’ll like, recreate the sentiment, but I keep it to myself. I think we have time for one last question. I gotta take it from this side because you guys are awesome over there. Katie’s got you.

Madison: Hi, I’m Madison from I have a question. Both from the talent side and the agency side. So curious how you’re approaching these new FTC guidelines. Like, when I’m scrolling and I see a hashtag ad, I have the same sentiment. I’m like, scroll again, just move away from it. But now they want verbal disclosure.

They want hashtags to be added above the fold. It needs s to be on screen. And I don’t feel like it’s being applied across the board. So curious about what your take is, how you’re applying it, and if you’re seeing worse results. What’s going on with FTC? Good question. Who wants to take it? 

Madison: I can start from an agency side We’re very conservative when it comes to FTC guidelines. I do not want a letter coming after me. and I don’t want our lawyer coming after me, to be honest. , I think that is really important, to be honest, and I think the brands that we have in this building cannot get away with The luxury that a beauty brand or a Ritual or ag can, I think Some of these, we have very large brands that are owned by very large companies And I think we just don’t have the luxury to afford someone not having hashtag ad before the fold or having the verbal disclosure we’re really cognizant of that and if they are not going to listen, then we don’t want to work with you.

It’s in their contract. It’s in their brief. We look out for that when we review content. So we continually look out for that. And we, say that if you don’t follow FTC guidelines, you might have to be removed from a campaign. 

Molly Tracy: I think from the talent side, I feel like all my manager friends, had a panic when FTC released these.

They’re like, Oh my God, it’s going to feel so icky and gross. And like, how do we make it feel authentic? And I actually low key love it. I feel like it really. Is now going to like level this playing field in the creator economy and it’s going to set apart the creators that have true relationships with their community.

Your community want to support you and your business? They appreciate your product recommendations. They purchased things from you in the past that have quote unquote changed their lives. And so for me, with the creators that I work with, and like most of our creators are OG bloggers, so they’ve been doing it for the past 10 years, they’ve really had the time to build strong communities.

It doesn’t feel gross for them to say Hey, this was sponsored vocalize. Hey, I’m working with X, Y, and Z. Or this is sponsored by X, Y, and Z, but you’ve heard me talk about them a million times. We finally get to a part we finally get to partner. It’s official. There’s excitement around that, and their community wants to support that.

I think the hard thing is for some of those creators who really have, don’t have deep rooted communities yet to be able to say Oh, by the way this was sponsored. Or somebody who’s doing a lot of sponsored work to now have to vocalize and hear four or five times a week, like this is sponsored by so I don’t it didn’t put me on edge.I feel like all my creators are like, okay, and? 

Aana Leech: And I’ve seen some creators do like really interact treat it like a TV commercial. They use it like an ad. They do like ad breaks. I love that. I’m just like, oh, here’s her ad break. Okay, cool. And I like the way that she packages that together.

If it works for them. Yeah, exactly. So I think that there are really creative fun ways to be able to integrate it into your your content and make it feel, I’m going to use the word authentic. Yeah, I think that, there’s definitely opportunities to make it feel a little bit more approachable.

I think that no matter what for FTC, some of the best creators that I’ve ever seen are just the best salespeople. And we forget about that. I think, but it’s your point also about commercial ads like there are some killer YouTubers who do incredible ads back to you. So I always forgot I always butcher her last name I think it’s Michelle Caray or Cari I think she does such good commercials donuts you guys are into them check them out because they do Produced commercials. It looks like a TV spot, but all their content is also so nicely and beautifully done.

There are just different ways to do it. You have to fit it into what your organic content is, whether it’s like high or low production value. But also, I so agree, it’s okay, so I’m going to have to disclose that this is a partnership, but what else are you saying? Are you also saying but you guys, I’ve talked about this like 20 other times before, so or aren’t you guys excited for me?

This is my first partnership I think if you just call it for what it is, and humanize what we’re all doing here, just be honest about it, it really goes a long way. Don’t mask it. I feel like  it’s validating. 

Samantha Merkin:Their followers what you said earlier about them following you. And also then maybe it makes someone, I always say a lot of influencers are brand whores.

But maybe that’s going to help someone realize like, what brands do I really want to work with? And be more selective about it because then you’ll see that again and again. Oh, this person really likes AG. Okay, then they’re always going to post about AG versus 10 different brands. AG is getting a lot of love on this.

Julian Greene: I love it. that came to my mind. Shameless plug for AG. 

Molly Tracy: They are a partner. I will drop my affiliate. 

Julian Greene: It’s fine. And to your point, it validates that like creators are a real business. Yes. And just like a TV ad spot, as a brand I’m paying for this ad spot and creators content. So I think it really validates that.

These are creators are the future of media. I don’t read magazines anymore. I follow creators. Yeah. And so yeah, the more that we can build to support that. 

Jessy: I thank all of you guys for asking really good questions. And for those of you guys who had other questions and didn’t get them an, answered. We will all be here all night.

So we will continue the conversations. A couple of things before we cut to dinner. Number one, you see a little QR code up here and around the room. That’s to subscribe to our podcast. You can listen to this, what it airs in a few weeks. Also for any, I would say at least half of the room are all WIM members.

I love you guys. Special shout-out if you are not yet a WIM member. We have a whole full-on membership that does like, A million things. It’s like this on steroids. I’m giving everybody here an entirely free month. Just to check it out and experience what it is. There’s a sign towards the front but there’s a promo code.

It’s very easy to remember. Chicago 2023. Pretty hard to forget. And you can get a free month to check it out. We have a mentorship program. We have castings. We have a 24/7 community on a Facebook group. A Slack board. Master classes. A ton of stuff. free for you all to check it out. We are going to next, go to dinner and drink.

And our lovely photographer is also taking headshots. So do not miss getting a complimentary headshot, which we will email to you all. There’s the step and repeat at the front. Take photos, have fun. And please give our panelists a huge round of applause.

Aana Leech

Head of Product Brands , LIGHTRICKS

Aana Leech is the Head of Product for Brands at Lightricks. Popular Pays is an all-in-one content creation and influencer marketing platform, where brands can easily collaborate with creators to build captivating content to drive online or social media campaigns. She leads the initiative to identify opportunities for utilizing AI to drive unique advertising and marketing solutions. Prior to this role, she was vice president of strategy for Popular Pays, where she led go-to-market initiatives, creator experience, marketing, and product development. She was instrumental in the company’s growth from a Series A startup it its eventual acquisition by Lightricks in 2022. For nearly a decade she has focused on shifting the paradigm from traditional content creation to one powered by creators and technology to empower brands in a dynamically changing advertising environment.

She jumpstarted her career in advertising at the creative agency Leo Burnett, where she managed an impressive roster of clients, including Phillip Morris, Fifth Third Bank, and Pfizer. A Duke University alumnus, Aana was also an accomplished varsity volleyball player.


CEO & Founder, VRAI Digital

As a former social media director turned influencer marketing strategist and talent manager, Molly opened her agency, VRAI, in April of 2019. VRAI classifies itself as a digital communication group for brands & babes with a point of view. VRAI stands for “true”, and our mission is rooted in uplifting and amplifying female-founded brands and voices to they can share their own truths.

Corinne Travis

Head of Creator Experience, FLAGSHIP

Passionate about providing creators of every size with the right tools and data to turn their craft into a business.

Presentor at BlogHer, CJU, and Sandals’ Social Media on the Sand. Podcast and webinar speaker for Affiliate Summit, CreatorIQ, Perlu, Blogist and Trove. 2019 PerformanceIn Influencer Top 50.

Julian Greene

Founder + CEO, BLOGIST

As 10-year veteran in the influencer industry, one of the biggest issues I personally struggled with as a marketer when serving as the Head of Influencer marketing at a variety of different direct to consumer businesses was the lack of standardization when it came to influencer spend and understanding the true ROI on an influencer campaign. I founded Blogist four years ago to fix this, and with thousands of influencers now in our network, many of whom that we now manage, we are able to pull both qualitative and quantitative insights on their business for brands to understand the expected impact they will see working with the right influencer.

Samantha Merkin

Associate Director, Influencer, FCB CHICAGO

Samantha Merkin is the Associate Director of Influencer for FCB Chicago. Samantha has been at FCB Chicago for over 5.5 years and leads influencer programs for the agency.

She creates, contracts, and executes influencer strategies at scale— programs that complement the agency’s creative ideas and push our clients’ business forward. She has a global roster of clients that span industries (B2B, CPG, Pharmaceutical).

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