In light of recent cultural events we’ve seen an accelerated social movement to push for change on a global scale.
From racial injustice and LGBTQI+ rights to sustainability and environmental activism, people are uniting to support the causes and communities they care about.
It’s impossible to look at the issues we’re facing worldwide without considering that the revolution underway also needs to spread to the responsible and value-driven casting of talent.
As we play our part in telling brand stories, it’s never been more important to make sure a truly diverse community is reflected in the marketing and advertising content people consume.
It is time to look to the future and take actionable steps to deliver positive impact, not just dwell on the mistakes of the past.
The tabloid culture
Since the dawn of tabloid culture in the early 2000’s, there have been waves of gradual change in the talent and influence industry, but nothing like the rapid revolutionary change of the last few months.
In the heyday of Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, there was a ravenous appetite for celebrity culture – so much so that even the behind-the-scenes creatives (stylists like Rachel Zoe and Brad Goreski) became household names.
At that time, VIP dressing meant securing a placement with one of those ‘it girls’ as they arrived (or exited) the club du jour, or having a Best Actress nominee wear a brand on the red carpet – all the while having these moments captured by paparazzi and seeing the images spread across glossy tabloids and celebrity gossip sites the next day.
It didn’t matter what they were doing – the mere vision of these glamorous stars in beautiful clothes incited conversation.
The influence of influence
Instagram’s launch in 2010 provided a platform for a new kind of star to rise.
Anyone with a mobile device and the app in hand could connect with a global audience and build their own digital community and fanbase. A willingness to share combined with eye-catching style and an engaging personality led to the rise of today’s mega influencers in fashion like Leandra Medine and Chiara Ferragni.
Across verticals from fashion and beauty to gaming, pets, sports and much more, Instagram facilitated the formation of all kinds of communities in celebration of shared passions. Stars were born from previous obscurity and were easily able to then monetise content in exchange for promoting a brand and its products.
2020 has brought about another wave of change.
As, globally, we’ve followed government imperatives to stay at home, the reliance on digital and virtual communities has skyrocketed, giving those with large followings the opportunity to use their voice and platform in new and impactful ways.
In addition to providing welcome entertainment and light relief, celebrities and influencers of note have transformed into essential resources and forces for good - be that John Krasinski bringing joy in his ‘Some Good News’ segment, Finland’s use of influencers as key workers to spread key messaging in the wake of coronavirus or Charli D'Amelio starting a viral TikTok dance to encourage social distancing.
The concept of tabloid stardom as we knew it seems like a relic from a bygone era.
What is now emerging is a new type of influence that is much more powerful.
True disruptors, innovators and change-makers – leaders who are looking to make a change in the real world, not just share a pretty image online. The new ‘VIP’s are those focussed on efforts to make the world a better place.
Consumers too are demanding that the talent and brands they engage with no longer just talk the talk but walk the walk. Reports have shown that more mindful consumers – and Gen Z in particular – expect more from the brands they choose to spend with and the talent they choose to follow.
As brands and talent look to align it’s more important than ever to create something of purpose and value with considered casting beyond aesthetics.
When beloved Danish jewelry house Pandora looked to rebrand and cast a collective of modern ‘Muses’ to front the brand it was crucial that the casting spoke to a global audience and embodied the values the brand stands for - from diversity and inclusivity to social responsibility and female empowerment.
ITB Worldwide, the entertainment and talent agency, cast and secured six inspiring change makers and activists as ambassadors, including Halima Aden, Nathalie Emmanuel, Tasya van Ree, Margaret Zhang, Georgia May Jagger and Larsen Thompson, each with their own individual story to tell and belief in doing good.
The future of influence
As we emerge from post-quarantine life, we’re moving away from a dependence on typically aspirational commercial messaging. Instead, we are looking to see genuine passion and purpose in the content we consume.
As a result, brands should look to align with talent who speak to their core values and give a voice of credibility and authority to their messaging.
These talents may not be the traditional ‘influencers’ of previous years – from urban farmers and spoken word poets to graffiti artists and motivational speakers – these are diverse and authentic voices that reflect the global community of our world today.
While the old-school celebrities of the tabloid era still have a role to play (and figures like Britney Spears have achieved almost cult-like status) the term “VIP” itself has evolved beyond its exclusive and unattainable connotations.
The space for new People of Influence has been opened up by the democratising power of social media and the rise of real, relatable stars from every corner of the world.
There’s now more room at the table.