Instagram #Ad Case Study: Listerine

Scarlett London Listerine

I wouldn’t call this a new series on the blog, but I wanted to start an Influencer Marketing segment, where I can discuss different Instagram Influencer adverts and what’s good/bad about them, what works and what doesn’t. I still feel the area surrounding Instagram Influencer adverts is very new and Influencers as well as PRs and Influencer Marketing teams are still finding their feet on how it all works and where the benchmarks are for payment and advertising legalities. I thought now would be the best time for my first post on the subject as there was a lot of discussion surrounding a certain Instagram post last week.

You may have seen the screenshot of an Instagram post that went viral last week on Twitter. The image was the above post from Influencer, Scarlett Dixon (aka Scarlett London) and was a paid advertisement for Listerine, as outlined at the end of her caption.

The reason this post went viral was nothing to do with Listerine, but to do with the ‘unrealistic’ expectations the picture portrayed. The tweet was picked up by thousands, with a lot of people giving their opinion on the photo and pointing fun at different aspects that led to it being deemed ‘unrealistic’. Scarlett even claimed to have received death threats because of the below tweet.

Scarlett London Tweet

What I want to discuss is not the unrealistic reality that the photo displayed, as most bloggers take images identical to this and don’t get trolled because of it. The image itself, although quite eye-roll worthy as it was just another typical blogger shot, was not what flabbergasted me the most. I couldn’t for one minute believe that this image was a paid partnership with Listerine.

When I first looked at the image, I thought it was a mistake that she had left a random bottle in the background of the shot as it didn’t fit the rest of the image and made it look a little less ‘pretty’. But then I read to the end of the caption and couldn’t believe that this image was in fact an advert for this bottle, hiding in the background. I bet you’re having to take a second look at the photo now that I’ve mentioned it, if you didn’t already know it was there. It’s incredibly easy to miss.

Scarlett London Listerine

I have many problems with this image, and after working in Influencer Marketing for a year, can’t quite believe that Listerine paid for this as an advertisement. So here are the issues I have with this paid-for Instagram post.

Why did Listerine approve this image?

Or ‘Who approved this image?’ Maybe even, ‘Did anyone approve this image?!’

Usually when you send a brief to an Influencer, they come back with an array of images for you to look through, give your thoughts on and let them know if there is anything you would like them to change or adjust.

I simply can’t imagine the Listerine team receiving the above image and thinking, ‘Yes, this looks like a great advert for our product.’ Perhaps the focus was more to do with the YouTube video and there was more product placement within the video, but as an Instagram advert goes, this just doesn’t scream ‘Buy Listerine’ at me.

I know that the best Influencer Instagram adverts don’t actually look like straight-up adverts but there are those that push the product in your face and there are the likes of the above that make you miss the product altogether.

If Scarlett hadn’t included ‘This is a paid partnership with Listerine’ at the end of her caption, I wouldn’t have had the slightest idea that this was an advert for them. If anything it looked like a plug for her YouTube. Where was the #Ad? Where was the ‘Paid partnership with Listerine‘ in the location area of the post, right at the top? More to the point, where was the transparency?

I honestly just can’t fathom how this image came through to the Influencer Marketing team and they approved it?! To put it into context (not to toot my own horn but…) the below image was posted by an Influencer organically after a strategic send-out of new launches from Lancaster by myself during my placement year (under supervision of course). We sent out the products and Sandy posted this to her 73,000 followers for no payment. We didn’t ask her to, there was no push for content, it just fitted with her feed and looked amazing. If I was to do a paid collaboration for this brand and had been sent this photo, it would have been approved straight away. Now look at the difference between this photo and Scarlett’s. Product placement is key. 


Why did Listerine pay for this image?

An organic post, I would have maybe overlooked. But a paid post? In my opinion, paying for this kind of content makes quite a mockery of other Influencers out there, or ‘Content Creators’ as they are also often referred as.

I know there is a lot of debate surrounding AVE (Advertising Value Equivalent) and whether it is a useful metric to measure against (most would say it isn’t), but I would say the AVE of this photo would come to around £4 at most. And I’m sure this Influencer got paid a few hundred, who knows, it may even be in the thousands for this partnership with Listerine.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing Scarlett and her content, because if you were to look through the rest of her Instagram feed, she is staying true to her branding as a lot of her photos are very similar, most being paid partnerships. I’ve been following Scarlett for a while now as she is quite a large beauty Influencer and does create some amazing images.

What does the photo have to do with Listerine?

Where is the story-telling? What part of this photo makes me think she’s going to be using Listerine, or would make me want to go out and purchase a bottle for myself?

Does anyone keep a bottle of Listerine by their bedside table? Where would she spit it out? Onto the carpet? Into the empty mug she is holding between her hands? So many questions I would have asked if I was in the Creative team at Listerine or Johnson & Johnson (the parent company).

If I was to give a brief for this campaign and wanted to work with beauty bloggers, I would imagine the images that I received in response to the brief, to look something like this: the scene would be in the bathroom, with the Listerine bottle on the sink-top. Perhaps the Influencer is looking into the mirror, cap full of Listerine in hand, while looking at the camera (through the reflection of the mirror – creative, I know). Maybe the Influencer would even be in a dressing gown with her hair wrapped in a towel to portray only getting out of the shower. In my opinion, a realistic morning routine, no?

But then again, the Influencers are the content creators and we need to give them artistic freedom and not give too many instructions. I am no Influencer, but I do know that Listerine is kept in the bathroom and not on the bedside table.

Why the image went viral on Twitter for ‘Unrealistic’ reasons

The problem that the Twitter world had with the photo was nothing to do with Listerine at all, but more to do with the balloons, the light box, the perfect morning set up, a blanket with her own face on and tortilla wraps passing as pancakes. I can understand where a lot of people were coming from in that I certainly don’t have balloons at my bedside when I wake up, nor do I have a plate of strawberries for breakfast. But this is the problem with Instagram – it’s all fake. But we can’t just pick on Scarlett when there are tons of other Influencers faking a lot of their own images and making our lives seem like utter crap in comparison.

I think even if this had not been an advert for Listerine and Scarlett had posted the image minus the Listerine bottle, it may still have went viral as everything else going on in the photo doesn’t actually have much to do with the Listerine product.

If I worked for the Listerine Influencer Marketing team

If I was leading this campaign, I would do a few things differently. Perhaps yes, still work with beauty bloggers as they have an interest in their looks and general body health. I would perhaps also target the ‘Mummy Blogger’ landscape as a lot of them would probably be genuine consumers of the product.

More than anything, I would lead with a research-based campaign. I would have facts and figures about the UK’s oral health and the dangers that could happen if we didn’t look after our teeth and gums. Along with the serious facts and figures, you could also have a little fun with it and run surveys around relationships/dating in regards to bad breath and bad dental hygiene. For example, if it’s a turn-off, if they wouldn’t go on a second date because of it, how they would rank it in importance of the person they are attracted to etc.

If I worked for the Listerine Influencer Marketing team, I would be reaching out to as many Essex Influencers and reality stars as possible, as I’m sure you’ve all heard of the ‘Essex Smile’. I would especially be trying my best to work with Jack Fincham, who appeared on the most recent series of Love Island as his white teeth played a huge part of the series. The tagline would go something like this, “Get this white sheen with Listerine!” – said with an Essex accent, of course.

Johnson & Johnson, if you’re reading this, I’m open to offers.

Jack Fincham

On the flip-side

‘All publicity is good publicity.’ We’ve all heard that saying, right? There’s a lot of debate around it and many agree and many disagree. Most of the time I agree with the statement, but of course there are times when everything’s just blowing up and there’s no good things to take from any publicity received.

But in this case, I think the publicity has been great for Listerine as they’ve been trending on Twitter all weekend, but for Scarlett Dixon, not so much. She’s taken so much flack for the Instagram post and the Listerine Influencer Marketing team are nowhere to be found. There’s been no statement or offer of support in relation to the advert on their behalf. This poor girl is receiving hateful tweets every two minutes and all due to the image she posted for Listerine.

The good thing for Listerine is that, no one is really talking about them in a negative way, it’s just how they are describing the situation. The PR folk of the Twittersphere however, are making comment on how disconnected the Influencer team were from this Influencer, the campaign and in the approving of this image.

Had this image just been ignored and not used as an example for the rest of the ‘unrealistic’ standards set by the Instagram Influencer world, we probably wouldn’t be sat around talking about Listerine for the past week. If this image hadn’t went viral, I would say they had wasted money on this image for product placement reasons, but now? They’ve definitely got their money’s worth, if not more.

Now I’m off to go and clean my teeth. Adios!


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