Earlier this week, An Taoiseach mentioned a possible Government campaign that would utilise influencer marketing in order to bring Covid-19 messaging to younger people. His comments have garnered a mixed reaction - not least among influencers themselves.
Speaking on Newstalk this week, Micheál Martin said the Government will be providing “different messaging for different contexts”.
"I do feel that in certain areas clearly the message isn't getting through in terms of certain communities where the levels are high and where activities continue where people are congregating in far too greater numbers."
He said the Government is considering alternative messaging platforms, including “maybe using more influencers to communicate at the level young people are at in terms of the various platforms they access... I think is key.”
Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond since indicated influencers could be paid up to €20,000 as part of the campaign, which has caused some public debate over using influencers as online advertisers.
The co-founder of Dublin’s TikTok house he thinks the Government has done well so far with advertising and should make use of online options.told the
“The government have done a great job so far with more traditional channels like TV and radio but have failed to capitalise on the power of social media in a pro-active way,” Jake Browne says.
“Some of the ministers have done great work through their own social media accounts but there has been a lack of cut through to the younger generation who play such a key role in preventing the spread of the virus.”
Jake says influencers are the best way to gain the attention of younger citizens.
“Influencers are the perfect vehicle to reach the younger generation,” he says.
“To touch on our own audience as a house, 48% of our followers are aged 18-35 and a further 12% are under 17. We average about one million video views a day and in the short three weeks we have been together we have reached well over two million Irish people.
"When you couple that size reach with the cultural impact influencers have on younger people, it’s a no brainer.”
However, blogger and TV panellist Sue Jordan (@itscherrysue), who also works in local government, says she doesn’t think the Government would handle influencer marketing effectively.
“I quite literally do both [blogging and local government work] and there’s a reason you never hear me talk about Government policy on any of my timelines,” she said on Instagram.
Sue points out that if the same budget was spent on bus advertising there would be no outcry. She wonders: “Is it that we can see the value in the back of a bus, but refuse exponentially larger online followings the same respect?”
She says the public’s reaction to the suggested use of influencers’ platforms has been “very interesting”, adding she sees the value in targeting a younger audience but she doesn’t think any of her peers would take part in the campaign.
“We all know a certain age demographic, they just don’t watch mainstream media. I don’t know anybody that would hop at taking money from Dáil Éireann to amplify their mixed messaging, because they have been nothing if not mixed since the start of this mess. You’re leaving yourself open to all kinds of abuse.”
Sue says she wasn’t surprised by the immediate reaction "from I don’t know how many quarters. Marketing strategies were built on some people’s hatred of influencers and aversion to them making money. But the immediate reaction has been ridiculous.
"Up to the middle of September, €8.7m has been spent on advertising in traditional media outlets around Corona messaging. Ask yourself why is it you believe influencers should not be as well paid as the back of a bus?”
She points out that most influencers have been encouraging people to social-distance from others, wear a mask and wash their hands regularly anyway.
Sue says if the Government wants influencers to provide specific messaging then those content creators should be paid for their work just like traditional advertising.
“I’m not talking about general messaging, as in wear a mask, wash your hands - common sense. I’m talking about specific Government messaging. Why should influencers not be paid to give over their platforms, while traditional media is paid? What is it about an influencer’s platform, time and work that you fundamentally believe should be free?”
How would a campaign like this work? Sue recommends highlighting the devastating impact of Covid-19 on young people and providing a platform for young frontline workers to share their experiences too.
“I think the only way they could do it well is to hear from younger people who have had Coronavirus and are living with the after-effects. Perhaps some content from young nurses and doctors on the frontline too. Maybe if the younger influencers shared that, gave over their platforms to share that, maybe [it would work].”
It remains to be seen how many influencers would be open to working with the Government on a Covid-19 messaging campaign. As Jake points out, they reach a much younger demographic than traditional media but Sue's suggestion that it opens influencers up to abuse from many areas is hard to dispute.