Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Lebanon: Hey, where are all the "influencers"?

Well, two theories: Either I am completely in the dark, or.... All the influencers in Lebanon have gone astray!

Well, I admit - I have no Tiktok - so maybe anyone who is anyone has migrated there from Instagram. But I doubt, as in, really doubt. Because on Instagram all your usual "influencers" are nowhere to be seen. Sure, sure, there's this detergent ad which rounded up half-a-dozen of them to share mother laundry tips, there's this and that restaurant mostly offering free meals in exchange for mentions, but by and large, the whole I-am-mentionning-a-product-on-social-media-because-I-have-followers has really gone to the deep end in Lebanon.

As I said, it did not completely disappear, but it might as well have!

Of course, that the whole communication industry in Lebanon is in psuedo-tatters at this point (official figures suggest an ad spend of 4.5 USD/person while industry veterans go down to a real 2.5 USD/person in 2021 - here) while the latest Army Day crop of ad left us with an incredibly bad taste (and a sad harbinger for what is to come in terms of quality of communication - here).

I do remember a time when a certain "influencer" put an official Christmas photo of her family right when the crisis in Lebanon was starting and the whole situation deepening - the photo was of her with her husband and kids next to the Christmas tree with a bottle of a certain brand right smack next to them on the low table. If this is not the worst product placement in the history of the universe, it might as well be. This brings back to my mind the funny scene in The Truman Show with the built-in "Mococoa" ad (please see here). A mixture of surreal settings, mercantilism, and - yes, this is a moral judgement - using your family for money.

And for a while, let us not forget, the money was indeed good. I have said it before on this space, but will repeat it, when I suggested that paid ads and endorsements by "influencers" should be declared as such, certain people attacked me viciously in Lebanon and laughed about me in their own (now defunct) magazine. Only a couple of months later, the EU made this mandatory for companies to declare the money they pay for such people, and for them (influencers) to declare openly when it is an advertising tie-in.

But all this seems to come from some "ancient past" - read 3 years ago. Companies are cutting spending corners as much as they can, and certainly lavishing money on ever-dwindling social media reach is now beyond their budget. Once more, I could be wrong about this, but any survey of social media accounts can verify what I am saying.

When such people stop posting for more than two months, and when their last photo was of an unsponsored family holiday in Europe, you know we have reached the end of the line. 

The other theory? 

"Everyone became an influencer and there's no one left to influence"....