Michael Jaïs

PARIS — Move over, digital influencers: luxury brands are increasingly turning to artists to help spread their message on social media, in a bid to tap into a more engaged follower base, according to Launchmetrics.

Michael Jaïs, chief executive officer of the marketing and analytics platform, said the phenomenon is already showing up in the data it collects. Launchmetrics monitors more than 20,000 brands daily as well as 50,000 media outlets and 100,000 influencers.

“We are at the tail end of a four- or five-year wave that saw digital talents reach the peak of their importance, and I think we are seeing a return to influencers who are more authentic. We are going to see the tide turn quite clearly in the next few months and years,” Jaïs told WWD in an interview.

“The more passionate you are, the more authentic you are in your domain, so I think that artists are going to have an important role to play,” he added.

The executive was speaking on the sidelines of the LM Lab Talks event he hosted with Jessica Michault, senior vice president industry relations at Launchmetrics, in Paris this week. Speakers included rapper Maître Gims, singer Dadju, actress Joséphine Japy and chef Héloïse Brion, as well as Morin Oluwole, head of luxury at Facebook, and Marc Briant-Terlet, cofounder of men’s skin-care brand Horace.

The talk is part of a drive by Launchmetrics to expand its business after raising $50 million in funding last August from French state bank Bpifrance, Seventure, Cipio Partners and the Courtin-Clarins family. Jaïs aims to increase revenues to 100 million euros in four years from 24 million euros in 2017.

The company, which allows brands to identify key influencers and measure the impact of campaigns in terms of return on investment and brand value, wants to be more present in content creation. It is also doubling the size of its team of data scientists in order to better exploit the information it collects. Here, Jaïs shares some of his predictions:

WWD: How do you see influencer marketing evolving in the next few years?

Michael Jaïs: It’s quite surprising how artists have remained very important on an institutional level, but they have totally missed the boat in terms of social media. In reality, digital influencers seized an incredible opportunity they should never have had.

Chiara Ferragni has 15 million followers, while Marion Cotillard has 1 million — go figure. It’s a very real issue. Artists are starting to understand the potential of social networks, while brands are realizing that if they want to preserve their aspirational image and their authenticity, they have to balance their content with, on the one hand, digital talents like Chiara, and on the other, people who can bring something different to the brand. We think we are on the cusp of that new wave. We are already seeing it in our data. Our Media Impact Value algorithm shows that with the same audience, the impact of an artist versus a digital talent is three times greater in terms of engagement and in terms of value creation for the brand. That is a recent development.

WWD: Why is that?

M.J.: Before Instagram, artists were the influencers. With the arrival of digital, what began to matter was not so much the aspirational aspect as being close to your audience. I think that luxury brands can only afford to do that for so long. Being close to your audience is good, but you have to remain aspirational. Having leaned too far in that direction, I think that brands — who are well aware of the fine balance between making people dream and being close to their customers — are starting to realize that if you’re too close, it’s hard to make people dream, so they are redressing the balance.

We’re now seeing a more balanced set-up, based on the idea that what generates authenticity is…passion. Artists represent passion through their art.

WWD: We’re also seeing a sea change in celebrities’ attitude to social media, with stars like Cardi B, who comes from a reality television background, sharing their lives with fans on Instagram. How is that going to change things?

M.J.: Changing attitudes mean that people now want to be closer to artists on a day-to-day basis. Having said that, I think an artist will always be more authentic than a digital talent, even if they show themselves shaving in the morning, because they are driven by something other than posting on Instagram.

WWD: What does this mean for influencers?

M.J.: I don’t think they will disappear. I think they will have to relinquish a share of the marketing budget of brands, and this won’t stop brands from switching the bulk of their budget toward influencer marketing.

In absolute terms, digital influencers will continue to be very important, but in relative terms, other types of talent will take a not insignificant share, whether they are singers, actors, architects, designers or chefs. It’s going to become more competitive, so for the brands, I think it will become more interesting and nuanced.

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