The last few years in the ad industry have been nothing short of a roller coaster, and 2023 is shaping up to be no different. This July, SAG-AFTRA joined WGA on the picket lines for the first time since 1960 –creating an unprecedented dynamic in the entertainment industry that has rippled across both brands and culture.

However, there’s a plot twist in every Hollywood story, and against the gray backdrop of these challenges lies the sunniest (and pinkest) theatrical/IP collaboration of the decade –and you guessed it, it’s Barbie. The bold creativity of participating brands, paired with the sheer volume of activations, has put true ‘brand collaboration’ marketing back in the spotlight –and we couldn’t be more energized to dig in with our clients.

As our industry continues to rapidly evolve, we need to think differently to deliver on brand love. By harnessing the “Spectrum of Influence”, brands can effectively de-risk video dayparts heavy with reruns and increase reach, all through the lens of culture and creativity.

The OGs

The definition of ‘celebrity’ has evolved with the consumption habits of today’s modern audience, with Gen Z recognizing social-first personalities over ‘traditional’ celebrities. The meteoric rise of social consumption, paired with the sophistication of data and technology, has paved the way for the meaningful inclusion of influencer marketing in the modern media mix. Influencer marketing has the potential to facilitate authentic brand engagement and help drive lower customer acquisition costs. According to a Statista, 60% of marketing respondents in a recent study suggest influencer marketing has a higher ROI than traditional advertising. Opportunities are boundless to drive discovery, share genuine brand advocacy, and create frictionless experiences for brands at scale. Strike impact is more limited in this sector, as actors can also still work on commercials (including sponsored content from influencers), sound recordings, music videos, video games, corporate/educational content, broadcast news, television animation and audiobooks, according to official SAG-AFTRA guidance.

Audio Influencers

There is no better way to create intimacy than a direct, 1×1 consumer dialogue with your brand – and podcast influencers can deliver that, with customized, talent-voiced influence that lends credibility and connectivity. Podcasts present an intriguing alternate scale opportunity; with 65% of SXM listeners indicating podcasts are replacing some of their prior television time. A Super Listeners 2021 study from Edison Research and Ad Results Media also found that over 56% of listeners are more likely to purchase a product they heard about on a podcast than if they had seen the same offer advertised elsewhere. Strike impact is quite low in this space, as podcasts that operate under SAG-AFTRA contracts are free to continue based on latest guidance –presenting opportunity for brands looking to grab eyeballs with quick turnarounds.

Community Influencers

The current landscape in Hollywood has not only impacted writers, actors, and producers –it’s rippled out to segments such as makeup artists, caterers, and costume designers –among many others. According to the NY Times, tens of thousands of behind-the-scenes workers, in solidarity with striking actors and writers, are bracing for what could be a months-long standoff with the studios. As we think about harnessing the power of the influence spectrum for brands, we would be remiss not to consider the potential of identifying and elevating creators in these specific communities –providing them a way to monetize their true passion and create advocacy for your brand with a new audience base.

Written by Heather Sparks, SVP, Head of Content at Zenith USA

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