How Brands Can Ensure Influencers Hold Up Their End of the Deal

Don’t end up like this PR firm

Luka Sabbat is being sued for not promoting Snapchat's Spectacles. - Credit by Getty Images
Headshot of Ann-Marie Alcántara

In a tale as old as time, yet another brand is learning what it means to vet agreements before moving forward with them.

This time around, public relations firm PR Consulting Inc. is suing influencer and actor Luka Sabbat for not fulfilling his contract to promote Snapchat Spectacles.

According to Variety, Sabbat was supposed to post three times to his Instagram story and once to his feed wearing the sunglasses, but only followed through with one Instagram story and one in-post feed. Both posts weren’t vetted by the PR firm. Sabbat was paid $45,000 before finishing out his contract, which was a total of $60,000. PR Consulting Inc. is suing for the original $45,000, plus an extra $45,000 for damages.

Sabbat and PRC Consulting Inc. did not respond to requests for comment.

Experts at influencer marketing companies say the entire situation would have been avoidable if the PR firm had taken a few extra steps.

“It’s extremely important that the influencer voices their concerns and clearly states what they will and will not do with regard to brand promotion in their social account,” said Mae Karwowski, founder and CEO of influencer marketing company Obviously

“It’s extremely important that the influencer voices their concerns and clearly states what they will and will not do with regard to brand promotion in their social account."
-Mae Karwowski, founder and CEO of influencer marketing company Obviously

Karwowski added that there also needs to be “an opt-out clause where the product and any money paid upfront is returned if something goes wrong.”

“We usually recommend to our brands that they pay influencers after all aspects of a creative brief have been successfully met in case something bad like this happens,” she said. “We want our brands and influencers to both be protected.”

Kamiu Lee, CEO of influencer marketing company Activate, recommends brands think about working with several influencers for a campaign instead of just one. That way, if one influencer “under deliver[s]”, it’s easier to replace them and “all content is not lost,” she explained. Most importantly, she added, breaking up payments to influencers is another way for brands to save themselves from any potential loss: “Sometimes, influencers not holding up their end of an activation is not always an honest mistake.”

“We also incorporate content draft review in our process and technology as a guard rail for these types of situations,” Lee advised. “If an influencer is consistently late to share their content to review, that could be a sign they may not fully be prepared to complete what they promised for a campaign.”

Karwowski also suggests that influencers “try out the product or experience the brand” before signing a contract to make sure it’s in alignment with their audience.

“It’s important that an influencer only post when they actually like the product or brand, otherwise the influencer’s audience will be able to tell the influencer phoned it in.”
-Karwowski

“It’s important that an influencer only post when they actually like the product or brand, otherwise the influencer’s audience will be able to tell the influencer phoned it in,” Karwowski said. “We’ve seen this happen, and the content is never as good and never performs as well if an influencer just doesn’t think the spectacles are cool. It’s a dangerous bargain for the influencer because it could call their credibility into question.”

Most importantly, Lee said “strong, long-lasting influencer relationships” are vital for brands so they can keep working with them over and over again.

“We find it can be really effective when brands continue to engage a core set of ‘tried and true’ influencers over time, while continuing to scout for new talent as well,” Lee continued.

Snapchat, which did hire PRC, is not involved in the lawsuit. Meanwhile, Sabbat hasn’t posted to his Instagram for the past seven days. At the very least, everyone’s reminded of what Snapchat spectacles are—and at least this campaign didn’t encounter worse brand safety issues.


@itstheannmarie annmarie.alcantara@adweek.com Ann-Marie Alcántara is a tech reporter for Adweek, focusing on direct-to-consumer brands and ecommerce.
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