Alexandria Lo Grasso & Monika Ratner of Blue Hour Studios on Infronts & Influencer Marketing Myths
The Infronts 2022 event was created to educate marketers on the value of influencer marketing and dispel common influencer marketing myths. Alex LeBron and Monica Ratner of Blue Hour Studios share the success of Infronts 2022 and the biggest influencer marketing mistakes they see.
What is Blue Hour Studios?
Blue Hour Studios is a social content shop specializing in influencer marketing. Alexandria Lo Grasso, the Creative Director of Blue Hour Studios, and Monika Ratner, the Head of Business Development at Blue Hour Studios, are constantly knee-deep in influencer marketing, which led them to develop the Infronts event.
The Infronts event began as the answer to a question: Why are influencers valued less monetarily than other forms of advertising?
Monika shares, “Influencers offer such immense creativity. That’s where all the audiences are going, and they’re pioneering what the future of advertising looks like, but when we look at the ad investment, the actual dollars going into the space, they’re pennies on the dollar compared to other more traditional channels.”
This disparity led to questions surrounding what was holding advertisers back and taking a deeper look at how marketers are educated on the value of influencer marketing.
The three goals of the Infronts campaign were:
- Educating the advertising marketplace on the enormous opportunities available with influencer marketing
- Diversifying on-screen representation and democratizing whose story got funded with ad dollars
- Investment – Providing advertisers with exciting content collaborations with creators and giving them an easy way to start using influencer marketing campaigns.
Alex explains, “What we did was we took that familiar format of an upfront and replace TV networks, especially with influencers, so you start to think about influencers in a different way, as part of a proactive buyer versus waiting for a brief to potentially come along.”
The Blue Hour Studios team started by selecting twelve influencers for the initial Infronts campaign.
Monika shares that they wanted to select exciting, creative influencers that brands would be interested in, along with choosing diverse creators from all different backgrounds.
For them, diversity is represented by creators from different cultures, platforms, regions, and much more. Their roster included creators with multiple millions of followers and creators with far fewer followers who are at more of an experimental stage of their content journey.
Infronts had two primary events and had around 1500 brand marketer attendees.
Monika notes, “In years to come, there’s more and more programming as we bring in more partners, and this becomes a more industry-wide event.”
The first event focused on educating the marketers on influencers and how they are today’s TV networks.
In regards to the first event, Monika shares, “We did a thought leadership presentation that had a lot of stats and facts that were debunking the five biggest myths we hear in influencer marketing, things like there’s no ROI or it’s impossible to scale.”
The second event focused on revealing an original slate of content and getting brands excited about influencer marketing.
Influencer Marketing Myths
Despite the proven benefits, many brands still resist investing money into influencer marketing.
When asked about this, Monika shares, “A couple of things that I see most often are related to the time-intensive nature that it can be to partner with an influencer.”
Working with people outside your brand can be messy and time-consuming as your team develops a relationship with the creator, which may discourage some companies from using influencer marketing in significant ways.
Many brands also fear not seeing significant results with influencer marketing. However, Monika and Alex note that this is a myth. You can measure influencer marketing in the same way that traditional advertising is measured.
Monika notes, “We really want to ensure brands know that there’s solid measurement behind anything we’re doing in the influencer marketing space because they need to know every dollar that they’re spending is working for them.”
Alex explains that brands also need to be comfortable with their identity and what they stand for to succeed with influencer marketing.
She shares, “They [brands] have to know what they stand for and be really confident in that and do the brand work behind that before they feel comfortable to open up the idea of co-creation and collaboration… Brands that are able to do that are able to connect with audiences in a whole new way, at a human level.”
Other myths about influencer marketing include influencer marketing is a fad, and there are no opportunities for scale.
Monika notes, “It [influencer marketing] gets put sometimes in a trend category or a test and learn category, and it’s not. The audiences are there. The content is there. The measurement is there today.”
Influencer Marketing Mistakes
A common influencer marketing mistake that Alex and Monika discussed was brands that work with influencers as if the influencer is a creative agency.
Alex shares, “You don’t want to approach an influencer or a group of influencers with a brief that dictates everything… [what] they should say, everything they should do as if they were just reading a script for you.”
She explains that influencers need to have enough information about the campaign while still having the freedom to create a natural campaign that speaks to their audience.
Blue Hour Studios works with brands to deeply understand their brand values and campaign goals to avoid this issue. Then, they play matchmaker to find an influencer that naturally aligns with the brand’s goals.
This matchmaking process allows influencers to execute the campaign with their own twist while aligning with the brand’s goals and values.
Working with Influencers
Monika and Alex had the following to say when asked about their favorite thing about working with influencers.
Alex shares, “I like it as a creative. It is by far my favorite thing ever to come up with an idea, approach the creator with this idea and have them make it so much better by putting their own spin on it… You can approach ten different creators with a single idea, and they’ll do it ten different ways, and that’s the coolest thing ever for me.”
Monika answered that she loves, “There’s always a future part of the road that hasn’t been built, and there’s something that’s just so exciting about that as it related to influencer marketing.”
She also notes that it’s exciting to have advertising money go to many influencers, who are themselves small businesses, rather than the money going to one large media company.
Final Thoughts & Future Plans
In closing, Monika shares that influencer marketing will “be as big as TV as it relates to where ad dollars are going and what brands get out of their investment in the space.”
Alex added, “I’ll echo that in a slightly different way. I think influencers are going to begin to replace ad buys for television… Influencers are writers. They’re directors. They’re actors. They are editors… They do everything.”
In terms of future plans, Blue Hour is focusing on learning what did and didn’t work with their Infronts 2022 event. They plan to continue improving the Infronts event and are excited to prepare for Infronts 2023.
Monika and Alex also wanted to thank the members of their Blue Hour team who led the charge: Maria Georgiou, Jax Smith, Madeleine Kyeremateng, Gabby Were, Michele Esguerra, Lucy Hendra, Justin Rivera, Gayatri Thapar, Sam Friedman, Bryan Petcoff, Alexandria Lo Grasso, Taylor Michelle Gerard, Matt Higgins, and Monika Ratner.