MSL introduces new influencer marketing service

Publicis PR network MSL is launching a new influencer marketing service called Fluency that will be available in 35 countries by the end of the month. Canada has already tested the service, and will be an early adopter across its MSL and North Strategic offices. The Message spoke with MSL’s Rema Vasan, who will lead the service across MSL worldwide.

Is this a new agency brand? No, Fluency is not a new agency but a new approach to influencer marketing driven by technology, said Vasan from the SxSW Festival in Austin—where Fluency was formally introduced. “It is about marrying really smart influencer expertise with this really amazing technology,” she said. “We were using tools and data in the past, but it wasn’t consistent around the world, and it wasn’t end-to-end.”

What is that technology? This is about machine learning, artificial data and lots of data about influencers and their reach. Developed by MSL, the cornerstone of the new services is a database of five million influencers worldwide (including about 95,000 in Canada). AI and machine learning will allow MSL to identify the best influencers for brands to partner with, track and manage campaign performance in real-time, and add  paid amplification when necessary—all on one dashboard that MSL staff are being trained on. “It will take influencer marketing from being data supported to having data being the driver of every decision,” said Vasan.

Why is MSL doing this? Because marketers are going to spend a lot more money in the space in the next couple of years. Estimates are wide ranging, but Business Insider projects influencer ad spend will reach between US$5 billion and US$10 billion by 2022. If you split the difference and assume a spend of $7.5 billion by 2022, Business Insider says that still represents a five-year compound annual growth rate of 38%. Adweek is even more bullish on influencer marketing, predicting that spending could reach US$10 billion as soon as 2020. HubSpot, meanwhile, projects that Instagram Influencer marketing will grow from about US$4.17 billion in 2017 to more than US$8 billion by 2020.

While marketing budgets are expanding slowly—Dentsu Aegis forecasts that spend across all media will only increase by about 3.8% in 2019—marketers are going to significantly increase their spending on influencer marketing. Fluency is MSL’s attempt to address some of the much-discussed flaws in the system and provide more data-driven reporting on how influencer spend is performing.

What kind of flaws?  Follower fraud, for example. Fluency is designed to provide powerful new follower fraud detection capabilities: the system ensures that the location of an influencer’s followers make sense, and flags spikes in engagement numbers in order for employees managing the campaign to investigate further.

Does this mean changes in Canada? Other than getting all staff using Fluency, there are no other structural changes, said Victoria Freeman, senior vice-president at North Strategic. North will continue to run influencer marketing through its speciality arm Nfluence. “It will be Nfluence, powered by MSL Fluencey,” she said.

David Brown