Is the influencer the voice of the brand, or do they speak for themselves?
We spent weeks investigating one issue: Anti-Prestige (don’t worry, the explanation is coming).
Whether you’re reading as a talent manager, brand representative, or influencer, the story below will make you think twice about influencer contract language and, maybe, change the way you work with or as an influencer.
What is Anti-Prestige, and How Does it Impact Influencer Agreements?
Our investigation into Anti-Prestige started by speaking with Danasia @theurbanrealist, a blogger and social media influencer who touches on topics like health and wellness, travel, and interior design (to name a few). We wanted to learn more about how contract language impacts what she can/cannot do on her personal page (yes, that’s right: contracts she signs impact how she presents herself publicly). Danasia has a lawyer who works through every contract, and she’s spent the better part of her career learning how to balance brand demands and her personal voice on her Instagram page and other social media accounts.
In some of her recent influencer contracts however, Danasia has noticed a clause labeled “Anti-Prestige Activity.” This clause restricts her from public activities such as porn, appearance in the nude, and use of marijuana and other illegal drugs. It seems simple (and easy to follow), right? But the contracts themselves state variations of the below:
“Influencer shall not engage in any ‘Anti-Prestige Activities’ and shall not otherwise engage in any activity which may tend to bring Influencer, Client, Product, or other applicable counterparty into public disrepute, contempt, scorn or ridicule… If at any time during the Term, Influencer commits any act which brings Influencer, Client, Product, or other applicable counterparty into public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule, or which shocks the community or which reflects unfavorably upon the reputation of Influencer, Client, or the Product, or if the Influencer has so conducted him/herself in the past and such information becomes public during the Term, it shall be constituted a breach of this Agreement.”
That’s a lot of lawyer talk, but what does it mean? First is that influencer contracts now include a lot more than information on the deliverables, payment terms, and start and end date. Now, influencer contracts include rules and regulations for how an influencer conducts themselves on personal social media posts, in a pretty extreme way.
For Danasia, it means that talking about politics, Black Lives Matter, and other topics she has a passion for would be off-limits as soon as she signs, because those topics could bring her into public disrepute, contempt, or reflect unfavorably upon her in other ways. It even means that whenever she gets a racist, sexist, or otherwise derogatory comment on her page, she has to be extremely careful with her reply; anything that insults a potential customer of the brand or reflects upon her poorly could result in contract termination.
Danasia and other influencers we spoke with find these restrictions to be a bit odd. Many of them pointed out that they've always talked about inflammatory issues and made their stance known (regardless of what side of the aisle they’re on) as a way to build camaraderie with their audience (this was especially true for micro-influencers). But with anti-prestige clauses such as the above, many influencers find themselves toeing the line when it comes to their speech online, something they've never had to do before in an influencer marketing campaign.
What are the benefits to Anti-Prestige Clauses in influencer marketing contracts?
From the brand perspective, clauses like these make a lot of sense. With a political and social landscape that continues to be harder to manage, many brands are doing their best to opt-out of difficult conversations online and avoid the ostracism of potential customers. Many brands want to talk about their product or service only, and leave it at that. When it comes to their influencer campaigns, brands need to make sure every voice discussing their product is on the same page: discuss the product only. So, for many brands, social media influencer agreements include this clause by default. It means fewer headaches for them and a more positive online experience for their customers.
What can Influencers do if they dislike Anti-Prestige?
This is a difficult issue, and there isn't a solution that makes brands and influencers happy at the same time. So, we continued our conversation with Danasia by asking her… what do you do when you see restrictive Anti-Prestige clauses in an influencer contract? Her answer was simple.
- Ask the brand to remove the clause.
Danasia has found that, most of the time, the legal team writing a contract for a brand is not in close communication with the marketing team. When Danasia reaches out to her content marketing contacts and requests that the clause be removed, they often have no qualms with doing so. It seems like, for most brands, having a happy working relationship from the start is worth more than the clause.
- If the brand is not willing to remove the clause, don’t sign.
Danasia noted that not everyone is in a position to follow step two: sometimes you’ve just got to take the job, the free products are enticing and worth it, or other benefits of the contract far outweigh the losses. But for Danasia, it really is as simple as that.
Danasia’s message to content creators struggling with restrictive influencer agreements:
"A brand is hiring you because of who you are and how you present yourself. If they try to change how you present yourself when they’re hiring you, don’t bother working with them. Find a brand that will respect your voice and trust you to act professionally. If they don’t respect your voice, why endorse their product?"
If you're working in influencer marketing, make sure to stay compliant with FTC (federal trade commission) guidelines.