How Digital Brand Architects Are Pushing to Close the Creator Pay Gap

This article is part of a cross-brand Digiday Media series examining how the creator economy has evolved amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Discover the complete series here.

Founded in 2010, Digital Brand Architects was acquired by United Talent in 2019, and since then, the agency has favored the signature of great color creators, such as the blogger Aimee Song and stylist Kelly Augustin.

The agency runs a mentorship program for black creators that offers training in negotiation tactics and meetings with brands and social media platforms. The DBA mentorship program debuted in 2021 and has since had graduates like Joyy Navon and Fly.nanced. According to the company, any content creator who identifies as black or African American and has between 25,000 and 90,000 followers on a social platform can apply for the mentorship program. Most importantly, DBA’s mission is to advocate for the creators of BIPOC by ensuring that clients receive equal pay and opportunities at all levels. The mission has become particularly important in recent years. Last year, an MSL study showed that black influencers typically earn about 35% less than their white counterparts.

Earnest James, senior vice president of special projects at Digital Brand Architects, said online creators “have always been white and thin, but that’s not the case anymore.” As the space matured, James explained, many advertising budgets shifted to the “influencer bucket.” According to a January 2022 eMarketer reportthree out of four marketing dollars are spent on influencer marketing, which is about $4.14 billion this year.

This has led many brands to invest heavily in big and micro-influencers over the past decade, creating a gray area when it comes to creator contracts and pricing, James said. Given the opacity of contracts, the designer industry has had little transparency about pricing and expectations – and as a result has impacted how color designers negotiate their terms. “Racism is ingrained in every industry, so we’re focused on nurturing talent from all marginalized backgrounds,” continued James. He added that inclusivity in advertising has taken center stage in recent years.

Indeed, the lack of diversity has become even more apparent as the influencer marketing industry has become more lucrative. Simple channels for creators to negotiate what those pricing standards look like could help level the playing field.

Adam Dornbusch, CEO of creator platform EnTribe, said many factors have contributed to pay disparities within the influencer space. “As influencer marketing has matured, the return on dollars spent has dropped dramatically,” he explained. This created a wave of all types of brands launching and raising the price of influencers. Over time, top influencers started earning thousands of dollars for sponsored posts. Meanwhile, an MSL survey watch that 77% of black creators were considered micro-influencers by brands, despite their following and impressions – thus earning an average of $27,000 per year. In comparison, 43% of white respondents were considered macro influencers and earned six figures per year.

“When we hire talent, we notice that they generally receive lower compensation than their white counterparts, sometimes even with smaller numbers of followers,” James said. “At this point, the brands we work closely with know that we wouldn’t ask for a rate increase if we didn’t think it was too low for the talent involved,” James said.

DBA works with Food Network’s Hawa Hassan, founder of sauce and condiment brand Basbaas Foods. Another client is makeup artist Patrick Starrr, founder of beauty brand One/Size, which launched exclusively at Sephora in 2020. More recently, the agency facilitated Cby Lea Shearer and Joanna Teplin The Home Edit collection at Walmart. Over the past year, the company has seen a 3-5x increase in the growth of its BIPOC talent business, according to the company.

In addition to its training program, DBA is currently developing an internship for HBCU students. “We view our talents as their own brands, and we try to identify new opportunities that align with their philosophy and mission,” explained James.

The DBA structure includes multiple verticals of teams specializing in creative areas, ranging from beauty to food and beverage. Part of the DBA’s strategy is advising creators to be authoritative voices in their field, including vegan cuisine, cruelty-free beauty or specific social justice initiatives, James said. “People these days expect influencers to be experts, including knowing the ins and outs of the product they’re promoting,” he said.

Tennille Murphy, known as The Tennille Life on Instagram, is another DBA creator and client. “Diversity and inclusion doesn’t stop with hiring black talent,” Murphy explained. “Brands and management companies have a responsibility to ensure that black creators are paid fairly and to help amplify their voice on their own channels throughout the year.”

Murphy added that the “secret nature of how rates are determined” in particular lends itself to often underpaid black influencers. Murphy said his past pay disparities came to light after he appointed DBA as an executive. Her newly negotiated rates, she explained, showed “how much I should have earned” and that her work had been leveraged in the past.

“There is a great opportunity for influencer marketing platforms that directly benefit from connecting brands with influencers and especially unrepresented influencers, to drive this initiative by being more transparent about pricing.”

Beauty and lifestyle influencer Aysha Harunwho was replaced by DBA for more than four years, told Modern Retail that “diversity and inclusion has been a long-standing issue within the content creator ecosystem and something that I have strived to highlight throughout my decade-long online career.

From pay gaps to lack of representation in campaigns, Harun said brands and management companies are under pressure to better reflect the reality of subscribers. “Although I feel we are making great progress, we still have a long way to go,” she said.

For DBA, the mission has evolved to match the right creator with brands that not only reflect their digital reach, but also their long-term goals. “It’s not just about online influence,” James concluded. “It’s about creating multiple touchpoints for future revenue streams.”

Source link