Has Instagram helped to diversify the advertising and media landscape? Blogger and editorial storyteller @fleurandrea shares her thoughts.
I write this having just returned from a shoot with one of the biggest beauty brands in the world. I thought it was quite progressive that a 5’1ft 26 year old, born in Singapore was chosen to represent the UK market. Later I found out that a Japanese Chinese influencer also from London (@marikokuo) was on the call sheet and the brand would be later be shooting in Asia – among other regions – with local talent. This casting is the most accurate reflection of global spending power, not to mention the world’s population that I’ve ever seen from an influencer campaign, let alone from the wider industries of fashion and beauty. Things are changing, and it’s because of the power that Instagram brings to you and I.
Fundamentally, it’s our audiences that give us, the influencers, the authority to be the mouthpiece of our generation and society. And our audiences don’t give their loyalty to us or to brands for free, they expect something back. Why shouldn’t they? In my old life as a Content Editor at a trends agency, there’s data that shows that 50% of people globally believe that their appearance is important to their identity. When it comes to advertising, consumers want to see influencers and models that look just like them. On a micro-scale they’ve chosen this via their daily social feeds, so why not TV, digital channels and in-store?
By working with influencers, it’s the simplest and arguably, the most effective way for brands to show that they see that girl with acne searching for the best cleanser. They know that there’s a 28-year-old man out there that needs a new suit for a wedding but doesn’t know where to start. Influencers are the humanity that brands often seem to lack. And importantly, an influencer’s popularity does not necessarily adhere to the beauty standards that the media industry has cemented.
Because of Instagram, companies of all sizes also have more diversity in choice when it comes to picking faces for their demographic and messaging. There is no longer an excuse that there ‘aren’t enough of them’ in the industry, a reason often given by casting directors and PR individuals, because it’s simply not true. Best of all, we vary so vastly from each other, in the markets we appeal to and our appearance.
Take these two UK influencers, Lauren Nicole (@laurennicolefk), a curve model of Afro-Caribbean heritage, and fashion model Natasha (@natashandlovu) from South Africa. There’s Shini (@cubicle) who’s Korean, Kim (@kimbouytang) from Cambodia and of course and Elnaz, Golnaz and Tanaz, also known as @thetripletsss who are Iranian. And that was all right off the top of my head. Consider that the first models were fit models for tailors, who were hired based on their resemblance to the patron. It seems likely that we are gradually returning to that concept.
The conversation about diversity, especially for me, is particularly poignant amidst the recent Dolce & Gabanna scandal uncovered by @dietprada. For those of you that aren’t aware, the luxury brand released videos filled with sexual innuendos and presented Chinese culture as fetishised, backward and ignorant. When called out, @stefanogabanna allegedly responded with racist, derogatory language, which was screenshot and exposed via Stories. The designer then claimed he was hacked.
It’s a remarkable occurrence because it demonstrates the power of Instagram (according to the authors, the posts garnered over 15 million impressions through shares) and is an indication of how many customers are clued into social media culture. The Great Show in Shanghai is rumoured to have cost approximately £22.5 million, now lost. And despite ‘representation’ in its casting, it was all for profit without an ounce of authenticity.
If that backlash that took place on Instagram doesn’t prove that the empowered call for diversity is loud, clear and making strides, I don’t know what will.