In Defense of the #Ad

I have been waiting for just the right moment to talk about this.

THAT MOMENT HAS COME.

Maybe it’s because I have a lot of #ads coming up, one that I posted recently that did HORRIBLY, or maybe it’s because I see the troll-like comments on my fellow influencer friends’ pages calling people very encouraging things like “sell-out” and “pathetic”.

It grinds my gears for many reasons, but the main one is…these people are fucking stupid.

That’s really just the long and short of it. I could end this blog post right now with that, but I like to ramble so I’m going to explain two things:

1 – why ads exist

2 – why the trolls are stupid

Who’s excited? I know I am!

First things first. Mostly everything you watch, read, or listen to on the internet is supported by advertisers. You know those websites like Buzzfeed? Vox? And Barstool?

Largely supported by advertisers.

How about mega giant publishers like Conde Nast and Hearst?

Also supported by advertisers.

They use that money to keep hiring talent and buying resources to make great content for you while you sit at your job, taking a quiz trying to figure out which flavor of Doritos you would be.

That bullshit is backed by ads. Yes, at some point (depending on how big they get) there are investors, maybe even VC funding and all that financial jargon we don’t need to get into. But my point is, all of those companies at one point or another, started out small, just like us “bloggers” and “influencers”.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I will become a huge media conglomerate one day, because I don’t have the drive or skillset to accomplish that. But if I wanted to, I could.

And ads are where I would start.

When I started The Skinny Pig back in 2008, I did SO MUCH SHIT FOR FREE. So many branded posts for free. So many recipes for free. FREE FREE FREE. Now, here I am 11 years later and I’m FINALLY making money off of the blood, sweat and tears I put into this thing? And you’re going to make me feel bad about that?

Fuck you.

Seriously. That’s what I have to say to anyone who tries to make me feel that way. Do you know how hard I worked to get here? You probably don’t because the beauty of being in this field is making everything look like a breeze. Guess you can say I’m good at my job then.

But I digress.

My point is, I did PLENTY of work for these brands for free at one time, and I will continue to do free things here and there. If you’re a mom and pop shop trying to sell small-batch hot sauce, I’m not going to ask you for $3,000 for a post. I’ll probably ask what you’re working with in terms of budget, and if you say nothing, I’ll ask for the product and try it out. If I like it, I share it on IG stories and we go from there.

To that end, let me be CRYSTAL clear on this:

I DON’T POST THINGS I DON’T LIKE.

I once gave money back to an advertiser because I really hated their product. I won’t say who obviously, but I thought it tasted like medicine and I couldn’t do it. I didn’t feel right about it.

And from the brand’s side, if you like what you see, you can choose whether or not you’d like to invest and work together in a deeper capacity. Brands reach out to me (and other influencers) because they like what they see and they want to be a part of it. That’s a pretty cool feeling for the people on my side. To you guys, it feels like we’re lying. And I just have to ask a few questions…

Why do you think that? Just because we’re getting paid?

Did it ever occur to you that maybe we like the brand already?

What if they approached us and introduced us to something new that we like and want to share with you?

Look, I’m sure there are plenty of disingenuous people on social media hocking products they don’t use, but I use everything I’ve posted about, and some of them I wouldn’t have known existed if they didn’t reach out to me first. And I’m SO thankful they did.

For example: Bulletproof Coffee. They reached out to me and I had ZERO clue who they were at the time. Now? I’m a HUGE fan and I’m stocked with it all the time. And I buy it. And the IGTV video I did recently with them? Didn’t get paid for it. Genuinely wanted to pay it forward.

Another one? 9 Elements eco-friendly cleaning products. No clue about it, but we did a few ads together and now I’m hooked on the floor and window cleaner.

How about one more for good measure? Yellow Bird hot sauce. I discovered them through an advertiser (Fuego Box, also an awesome hot sauce subscription company), and I’m obsessed with their jalapeno hot sauce.

Oh, and don’t get me started on chain food. Probably the biggest trolls come out when they see a fast food ad on our pages. I wrote a whole thing defending my love of fast food here. Do you think that the second I became a food blogger I just stopped eating things like McDonald’s, Dominos, Taco Bell, and the like? False.

So…again. Why does everyone just assume that if they see “paid partnership” that it means “full of shit”? If you saw “paid partnership” next to your favorite TV show on Netflix, would you all of a sudden hate that show? Oh wait, they have those already…

THEY’RE CALLED COMMERCIALS.

Or what if you saw “paid advertisement” at the top of an article on Buzzfeed about the different ways to use a tampon for gardening, would you hate Buzzfeed? Oh wait, that exists too…

THEY’RE CALLED ADVERTORIALS.

You see my point. Also I don’t know if that article exists but I’m sure something like it does. Buzzfeed is just the worst.

Again, I digress.

Instagram has the highest rate of engagement (which is funny, considering we all complain about how bad it is), and THAT is the main reason brands tap into influencer marketing. People see it, and they react to it. That’s been the point of advertising since it’s inception! And I can attest to that, as someone with a degree in Advertising & Marketing, as well as a former ad sales executive.

That said, you don’t have to be a former ad exec to understand this logic:

The rate of engagement on Instagram is between 2% – 7%, whereas Facebook is between .10% – 1.5%, and Twitter…forget it. Even lower. Unless you’re a Kardashian or something.

So before you go ripping people to shreds for doing ads and “selling out”, maybe understand that we’re just trying to pay our bills, like the rest of you, in a way that makes sense for us. It’s not easy making money off of Instagram, so if you’re able to do it, why wouldn’t you?

You’re going to tell me that if one of your favorite brands *cough cough Taco Bell cough cough* came to you and offered you money to post about it, you would turn it down?

You know damn well you wouldn’t. Tacos & Money? I’m gonna put that on a damn T-shirt. So I have to assume that some of this “sellout” talk is actually “jealousy” talk. Have fun on your next trip to therapy with that one.

Now, let me walk you through the process of the #ad, since everyone seems to think it’s so easy to “just make an IG post and get paid for it”.

Steps look something like this:

1 – brand or agency reaches out with their campaign and asks for your rates for the amount of content they’re looking for. This changes with every brand. Then you discuss rates. Hopefully there’s not a ton of negotiation but usually there is, and then you settle on a rate. Yay!

2 – brand or agency sends contracts, vendor forms, and creative briefs. You have to read them all CAREFULLY and make sure you’re not signing away your brand exclusivity for a year or something insane. This happened to me once and thankfully I had a manager at the time who caught it. Now I do this all myself. And reading contracts is a MASSIVE time suck if you don’t know what the hell you’re looking at.

3 – Contracts signed, everybody’s on board. You wait on product or further detail, which can take days, sometimes weeks. You set up a time for your shoot, whatever it may be. Product can be delayed, delaying your timeline. Not your fault, but still you need to work with the brand to get it done on time.

4 – You do the shoot and make your edits. This can take hours, sometimes days, depending on what you have to do. You send to the brand for approvals.

5 – HERE IS THE FUN PART! The brand can reject your content for the SMALLEST things. I have had brands tell me to redo an entire shoot because they didn’t like the color of the placemat I used because it clashed with their branding. Reasonable. So then you HAVE TO redo it. You can argue, but usually, 98% of the time, it lands you absolutely nowhere. Thankfully this hasn’t happened to me a lot, but it happens.

6 – Redo the shoot. Resend for approvals and pray. Brand approves of your posts and stories, and assigns you a date to post.

7 – You post and wait for the angry comments from the Instagram villagers. Hopefully there aren’t a lot and hopefully the post doesn’t tank just due to the fact that it’s an #ad in the first place.

8 – The brand may whitelist your content (aka make a “sponsored” post out of it, you know what I’m talking about), which is a bit annoying to do on the backend of Facebook, but I’ve gotten the hang of it now. Thank god. At first I could NOT figure that thing out. Cue stress.

9 – Wait for payment, which could be anywhere from 30 days to 6 months. I did a campaign with a brand back in February and I still haven’t gotten paid. Cue more stress.

10 – Eat feelings

And there you have the rough 10-step process of what goes into an #ad on IG/Facebook. Don’t fucking tell me it’s easy. Especially when you have more than one to do at a time, and you don’t have a large team to help you with it. I am waiting on replies from three different agencies right now, that I have followed up with twice each, and they’re all due around the same time. I have JUST A BIT of anxiety about it.

This is a job for a lot of us, and if you have a problem with people who post ads, maybe you shouldn’t follow those people. It’s quite simple.

Hope you learned something today. And I don’t mean that in the condescending way it reads. I genuinely hope this helps some people understand what this world is like.

And if you’re a friend, loyal follower, or family member, show your support! Like the ad, comment on it, share it…these are ALL things that help me survive, quite literally. It’s not that hard to do and it means a lot to us. Even if you don’t like the ad, say it! BE HONEST. We’re not here to please everyone and a lot of times, the brands want that input.

Just because you have a 9-5 doesn’t mean you work any harder than we do. In fact, I KNOW there are days when you sit in your office, hungover as fuck, eating bagels, slugging coffee and basically being useless. I know it because I used to have an office job and I used to do it. Bet the company is grateful to have you on those days! And you know what? You still get paid! If I’m hungover and useless, I lose out on opportunities, and therefore I lose money. It’s a CONSTANT hustle.

I don’t go to an office every day, but I’m still working. And yes, sometimes I can work from exotic locations. You know what that also means? That I can never take vacations! So…keep that in mind when you go home and can stop thinking about work. I don’t even remember what that’s like.

I love doing what I do, but ads are an essential part of continuing to do it. So if you don’t like it, unfollow. There’s plenty of other foodporn accounts out there for you that are completely mindless.

If you want to follow people with substance, people who have something to say, and the people who are actually GOOD at making an impact, you’re going to see ads. Because brands want to associate themselves with strong voices and I like to believe I have one of those. And I’ll be damned if I let anyone make me feel ashamed of that.

Rant over.

7 Comments

  1. Perfectly, passionately stated. Thank you for bringing to light all that goes into content creation! We feel ya! Karen & Gavin @coupleinthekitchen

  2. You’re amazing and I miss you. Thanks for the epic article

  3. A masterpiece, dear! 😀 We all gotta eat. Get those ads!

    And thanks for inadvertently reminding me that I’m still waiting for $150 from a PR agency down in Texas that I know I’ll never get for something I did back in December 2018. Haaaa. Peanuts, but… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    • Oh god girl I know that life. The worst one I had was 9 months. I literally could have had a baby by the time they got me my money and it wasn’t even that much haha

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