Billion Dollar Boy, an influencer marketing agency based in both the U.K. and U.S., publishes the pay rates of its influence campaigns broken down by ethnicity on its website. This bold act of unabashed transparency is a stark flag in the landscape of an industry challenged by the influencer pay gap and how influencers of color are treated by agencies and brands.

CEO Edward East joins Winfluence to explain why his firm is so open about what CPMs and the like it pays broken down by race. We also discuss how gender might play into the pay gap issue and what other firms might do to emulate the leadership of Billion Dollar Boy in the practice. We also discuss influencer fraud and how to combat it.

East also explains what Billion Dollar Boy is and does to distinguish it from other influencer marketing solutions.

This episode of Winfluence, the podcast, is sponsored by Winfluence, the book! Get a special discount by clicking the button below, buying on the Entrepreneur Press bookstore and using the discount code FALLS20. That earns you 20% off the retail price, just for being a Winfluence (the podcast) listener. Read and learn why we’ve been backed into a corner to think influencer marketing means Instagram and YouTube and how reframing it to be “influence” marketing makes us smarter marketers.


Winfluence - Reframing Influencer Marketing to Ignite Your Brand

Order Winfluence now!

This episode of Winfluence, the podcast, is sponsored by Winfluence, the book! Get a special discount by clicking the button below, buying on the Entrepreneur Press bookstore and using the discount code FALLS20. That earns you 20% off the retail price, just for being a Winfluence (the podcast) listener. Read and learn why we’ve been backed into a corner to think influencer marketing means Instagram and YouTube and how reframing it to be “influence” marketing makes us smarter marketers.


Winfluence Transcript – Edward East – Billion Dollar Boy

Jason Falls
Hello again friends thanks for listening to Winfluence – The Influence Marketing Podcast. We’ve explored several different types of influencer marketing software’s and service providers here on the show. There are two reasons I keep bringing these folks to the table. The first is that it’s very hard to tell the difference between what one influencer marketing agency provides and what another influencer marketing solution actually solves. So having the CEOs and others from the vendors and service providers come here to help delineate what it is they do, helps you understand what’s out there and which company might be of service to you.

Jason Falls
The second reason which I hope you are more excited about as am I is these people are the ones who live, eat, sleep and breathe influence marketing every day. They’re constantly analyzing the industry working with influencers evolving with the market, solving problems for businesses and brands. They are subject matter experts. My challenge as your host is to allow them to be informative about their thing without the episode being turned into an ad, but then bringing that subject matter expertise and industry experience to life. That ultimately is why you come here I believe in so I’ll continue to push these guests to help us understand influence marketing better. Today’s guest is Edward East, the founder and CEO of Billion Dollar Boy. It is an influence marketing managed service. So you hire them to essentially build and run creative campaigns with influencers on your behalf. They do have a proprietary software you can access as well. If managed services is either too pricey for you, or you prefer the hands on management of the program yourself. we settle the ins and outs of what Billion Dollar Boy offers but of course transition into some deeper conversations about the industry and and billion dollar boy are quite committed to helping solve the influencer pay gap and supporting inclusivity equal opportunity and fair treatment of influencers particularly around race and representation. They even show the racial breakdown of their own track record openly on their website. Ed and I talked about the pay gap whether or not gender factors in there as well. We also get into the whole influencer fraud thing I can’t seem to let Fake Famous go so I asked about that too. But in all fairness, this episode was recorded the week I was writing my piece for Entrepreneur on the movie, so you can find that link in the Episode Notes at JasonFalls.com. Ed is a smart one and you’ll want to pay attention to him. He and his firm Billion Dollar Boy are pushing the pay gap and fairness issues for influencers. They are leaders in the industry for doing so. hear more from Edward East next on Winfluence.

Jason Falls
This is normally the point in the program where someone jumps in and says, “Support for today’s podcast …” Well support for today’s episode of Winfluence – The Influence Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Winfluence the book! Winfluence – Reframing Influencer Marketing to Ignite Your Brand is available now from Entrepreneur Press. You can find it in bookstores everywhere, but I’ll have a special place to go online and get a discount in just a second so get ready to jot down a note. Winfluence the book is not just a strategic blueprint to help you employ smart influence marketing strategies for your business or clients. But it explains why our common perception of influencer marketing is all wrong. I take you through how to rethink and reframe the concepts to turn influencer marketing into influence marketing, broaden the perspective and open new avenues of leveraging influential people online and offline to grow your business. Here’s the special URL and discount code just for you the listeners of this podcast go to jason.online/buywinfluence. That’s jason.online/buywinfluence. That takes you to the book on the Entrepreneur Press bookstore, buy the book and use the code FALLS20 – all caps – F-A-L-L-S-2-0 and get 20% off the retail price. The address again is jason.online/buywinfluence. Leave a review on Amazon after you read it because select reviews will be read here on the show. Winfluence – Reframing Influencer Marketing to Ignite Your Brand is available now. Go to jason.online/buywinfluence. and use the code FALLS20 today.

Jason Falls
So Billion Dollar Boy claims to be the creative agency for the influencer age. Wait a minute aren’t aren’t aren’t the influencers the creatives? I mean, all kidding aside, though, give us the details of what Billion Dollar Boy does. What’s your function in that influencer ecosystem?

Edward East
Yeah, great, great question. And 100% the influencers are creatives. Yes. So we started back in 2014. And I started the business with two friends, one called Permele Doyle and other called Thomas Walters. And in those days, influencer marketing was a sort of a fad a passing trend. But it’s fair to say six years later, 2020. It’s a big established business, around $10 billion in 2020. And as we move into 2021, I can only see that growth expanding and that that business opportunity expanding is it’s really redefining the way marketing is done for lots and lots of companies out there. And what role do we play? Well, we see ourselves as a creative agency for the influencer age, we’re developing original creative ideas, and strategies that will help brands bring to life, their stories, through influencers, to promote their different products and services. So we act as a guidance to the brand when working with influencers. And the reason we see ourselves as creatives as well is we are giving inspirational briefs and guidance to the talent that we work with. And then they bring that to life. They’re the ones directing it, shooting it, producing it, in most cases. And we’re just there supporting them thinking it through and trying to bring the best campaigns to life. And I think what’s why we’re important is if it is working with one influencer, then you know, you can really they are the creative, but when you’re working with multiple influences, you want to create consistency across that group. And so when we bring a creative idea to life, we’re trying to create consistency across multiple influences from around the world to bring that brand’s message to life.

Jason Falls
My follow up question to that is, if I’m a brand and I’m coming to billion dollar boy to engage you to help me manage and create influence strategies, influence campaigns, it Are you able to engage any influencer? Do you have a you know, opted in, you know, influencers that are in your network, and are kind of exclusive to you what, what’s my what’s my array of choice that I can work with?

Edward East
the choices unlimited. And we don’t, we’re not a talent agent, per se, we’re more of a we represent the brands versus the talent. So over the last seven years, we have worked with, I don’t know, between seven to 10,000 influences. And all of the information about those deals, and the creative and the campaigns we ran has been kept in our database. So we can go back to that as an ever evolving piece, and use that to give us information on the time that we worked with previously, when we have a new brief come in, or we’re looking for new influences. We go outside of that outside of that existing network to look for new talent that we think could bring that brief to life. So we’re not limited by our own network. It’s constantly evolving and growing network. And, and we have, you know, we have a billion dollar boy, now we’re probably one of the largest agencies in the world, focused, focused on focused on influence, like influence marketing, and there’s about 85 to 90 people. Now, we’ve been growing fast over the last couple of years, and around about 30 to 50 of those so probably around 40, I guess, are liaising with talent every single day, bringing our brands campaigns to life.

Jason Falls
So I just to kind of contextualize this with what people on the show have heard me talking about in terms of the different, you know, sort of nodes in the environment of influence marketing. It sounds to me like billion dollar boy is sort of like a managed service. If you were a software company, you would be the managed services arm of that software company, or do you also have your own software that goes along with what you do?

Edward East
Yes, we’re more of a managed service. So we are that. I mean, we are an agency where like an agency running a decent day’s campaigns for our clients. But you touched on an interesting point, which is not only with an agency, but for four years ago, we recognize the importance of technology in automating certain processes that we as an agency were running. And we developed our own proprietary software echo companion, which now is an external business $2 billion. Boy, we invest in it and we grow it and we build it. It’s licensed to external parties as well. But it’s a tool that was built by an agency for an agency It’s his primary function is to make our agency billion dollar boy more efficient. So we have our own software to we use to run these campaigns and automate certain elements of the process.

Jason Falls
Nice. But I think for the brand managers out there just to clarify, and I think I’m reading this right, you guys don’t have the kind of software that I can come and search a database of influencers, you’re more of the people who are going to partner with me to actually build the creative briefs, engage the influencers, for me manage those campaigns, all that good stuff that that quantify that correctly,

Edward East
Billion Dollar Boy, the agency does what exactly we described. But we also have a piece of software that we use internally called companion that we now also license out license externally, to brand managers and other agencies to run their influencer marketing campaigns, for example, searching for talent.

Jason Falls
Okay, great. Interesting. All right, that’s a that’s a that’s a slightly different way than I’ve seen it positioned in other other places. But that makes perfect sense now, so and I was chatting with a gentleman the other day on the show, Jim Lin, who works at Golan in the PR firm here in the United States. And we, we both noticed that more and more brands are using influencers, or I guess I should say content creators is a more appropriate way of labeling them. But they’re using them for their creative and access to their audience. Are we trending to a point where paid spend plus great creative means that brands are eventually not going to care? If the influencer leverages their network and just wants the creative output to use however, the brand likes?

Edward East
Go to the good guys a really good question. And I think there’d be many different opinions on it. We have we have as a business, a paid social team and within our agency that boosts influencers content as and when needed, depending on the objectives of the campaign. And it can be incredibly effective. When you’re a direct to consumer brand, it can really help allows you to target a very specific audience and drive trackable conversion if you get the pixel set up between the various platforms that you run it on and your website. And it can be very complimentary to the influencers creative, but I think there’s nothing that can replace the the beauty of a pure influencer campaign. And I think they’re kind of two ways I see like the type of campaigns we run one, we’re running campaigns for brands that sell through third party retailers. And then to we’re running campaigns for direct consumer brands. And for direct consumer brands, I would tend to lean towards combination of paid spend and influencer creative, but then for building pure brand awareness and equity. I would say that actually the pure influencer plays the right is the right approach.

Jason Falls
Well, so what’s your take on this? I’ve asked a couple people this question, are we to a point where influencer marketing and this kind of piggybacks off of what you just said a little bit? Are we ever going to get to a point where influencer marketing isn’t really successful without paid spend to amplify the content? And reach? Or is organic engagement and success going to still be possible? I worry that if the social networks see money being put behind influencers or certain accounts of certain sizes, that they’re going to ratchet down that organic reach? Because they know they can just get more money out of it? Are we ever going to get to that point? You think?

Edward East
Well, I guess we could have been getting to getting to that point. Until TikTok came about. And it’s possible that if that hadn’t happened, that would have been stopped with Instagram that yes, that could have been an issue. But I think as new platforms arise, and new, new channels for creators arise, there’s always going to be an opportunity because those platforms are going to want the creators to come and create content for that for their platforms. And those platforms will take time to build up the capabilities to monetize that network appropriately. And while those opportunities are there, influencer marketing can continue to thrive. So yes, I would be worried if we were limited to only one platform. But I think with the emergence of TikTok, and I’m sure down the line future platforms, there’s always the platform’s are always going to rely on these content creators to make them successful. So they’re going to want to keep those people happy. And one way of them being happy is all the earnings that the content creators are making from those brand partnerships outside of the revenue they generate from directly what not in Instagrams case, but YouTube, for example, from the platform, is it there’s an interest? I’ve never I’ve never been asked that. What I think is probably quite a good answer.

Jason Falls
No, that’s, that’s a very good point. I definitely can see. See the the sense in that. All right. I want to shift gears a little bit here on your website, you not only make the value statement that you the company believes in equality, diversity and inclusivity and pledge your work to uphold those values. But you guys go a step further, which I thought was really awesome. admirable and interesting, you showed data on the racial makeup of the influencers you work with. And the average CPM, each is paid in both the UK and the US. Now, that’s not normally data, a firm would share. And while the numbers look really good, for the most part, you do have kind of a stark white issue in the United Kingdom with 71% of the influencers chosen being Caucasian. Why the decision to hang that out there, because it’s there’s there’s obviously a risk that it may not look great for you at some point, although certainly you can control it to a degree as well. But why hang that out there?

Edward East
Yeah, again, I think it’s well, it is important to to be transparent about this, these types of statistics. And I think we should be proud of these statistics too, as a business, we do pride ourselves on trying to, you know, try trying, believing in equality, promoting diversity and inclusivity within influence marketing, not only within our own team, but with the influences suppliers that we work with. And we’re constantly pushing our partners, our brand partners to uphold those similar values, which they will do, by the way, but um, you raise one point about that UK influencer mix and 71% of it in white, Caucasian. What I think our approach is we want to have a representative sample, and we want that representative sample to be as close to the populations demographics of the population as possible. So we want we want it to be representative. And although I can’t pull up the UK statistics, statistics, right in front of me, I would hope that that is relatively representative of the UK audience, UK population as well. So does that that’s what we’re striving to whether that is or not, that’s where we’re trying to get all of our campaigns to be representative of the local audience.

Jason Falls
And that’s totally fair. I think my my spin on it being, you know, stark white, which was probably a little unfair, was that the racial makeup in the US is actually, you know, there’s a higher degree of African Americans … of black people represented than any other race. So I guess looking at the two side by side, I was like, Oh, they got a problem over here. And it’s not really a problem. You just have maybe overcorrected in the US, which is not a bad thing.

Edward East
It can I think it also No, you’re right, it can also be to do with the products and the brands we’re promoting, and the audience’s they’re trying to talk to based off who they’re selling their product to. So that’s another reason for that, actually. So the so the mix is, you know, the mix is dependent on a variety of factors. But as a business, we constantly strive to be representative in the most appropriate way. And another thing is, sometimes I get asked about, you know, is your job to pay the lowest rates possible to influencers? Well, no, it’s not our job is to pay a fair rate to both the brand and the talent. And we’re trying to manage that very carefully. So the best work is produced for for the brands we’re working with.

Jason Falls
That’s an interesting, an interesting challenge for you guys to fulfill. Because I would imagine that the brands that come to you, I mean, they you know, I work at an agency, too. And when they come to us, they don’t say, spend what you have to spend, they say let’s make the most efficient use of our dollars. So do you get much pushback from clients on kind of your your willingness, or your I guess, forwardness in saying, you know, we need to pay these influencers? what’s fair? Not what’s great for your budget?

Edward East
Again, good, good. Good question. Jason. I so I think by that, what we’re doing is creating a way will sort of very forward thinking within the industry and trying to build the best relationships with the talent for the brands we work with. And by doing that, we’re creating a lot of value out of those relationships. And the rates, we’re paying a generating very efficient numbers, ultimately, because the talent is happy and very excited to be working that brand. And they deliver over and above what they would typically deliver when someone may come to them and offer them far less and really try to push them to do too much. And they find that a struggle with us, then what we’re trying to do is pay in the right, the right amount, which works about the band and the times. So that gives a good answer we find at least the best results.

Jason Falls
So you know, the influencer pay gap issue obviously largely refers to the distance between what the average influencer of color makes versus their white counterparts. Your numbers seem to show that for for your influencers, those who are black actually make more in CPM than those who are white in both the UK and the US. I’m curious on two fronts here, what was this the result of sort of your, you know, sort of economic engineering with what you’re doing with your influencers in your in your clients. So I’d love to know if that was really intentional or just a convenient output of this and then I would, I would Love your insights on how others in the industry that are at agencies or even managed services for some of the software platforms? How can they replicate that success because that, I think, is where we want to go.

Edward East
So it wasn’t like, it wasn’t, I think Disney, it wasn’t at convenient out there. So a, you know, we haven’t worked the numbers to make it look like that. It happens to be the case that from all the deals we’ve done, this is what the cpms look like. And so what we have, I think, potentially a reason for it is, in the US, if I just take UK as an example, there is a smaller talent pool from different backgrounds, which has led to us having less supply to work with, meaning that they’re in much higher demand those influences. And so it’s naturally led to us having to pay a higher CPM in order to be able to work for them. And I suspect that if you actually looked Well, I mean, I would hope that if you looked across the industry as a whole, you actually may see startlingly similar results. I don’t know, because I haven’t never actually seen those comparisons made. But given what we’ve experienced, I would suspect you would see it, but I, you know, I really respect what the what the founders of the implicit pay gap have tried to achieve, which is trying to, you know, promote equality and fairness throughout the industry. And I think they’re doing a very good job. Maybe they are, a lot of the stuff they’re posting is complaints, and I think there’s probably it’s quite an has quite a quite negative stance, and I know they’re trying to change that. They want to hear the good things as well. So I think you have to take it with a touch of a touch of salt, everything now sort of everything that publishing this, if that makes sense. And I think they I know that move that reshoot was?

Jason Falls
Yeah, well, I mean, I still applaud them. I mean, they’re they’re making the conversation happen more frequently, which is helping solve the problem. And obviously, you know, billion dollar boy has done a nice job of putting data out there to say, Hey, we’re, this is what we’re trying to do. And here’s some of the results of what we’re trying to do. So I certainly admire you guys for doing that. So also, on kind of a related note, out of curiosity, I think the latest numbers that I saw, and this was probably a year old data now. So it’s not like numbers I’ve seen in the last two weeks. But the latest numbers that I saw, showed a pay gap on the gender side as well. I think a hype auditor study last year, showed that men actually make 7% more than women for influence engagements. Does that number ring true with what you have seen in your experience? Or is that just one look at a data set? And perhaps not indicative of the norm? I adjacent I wish I could give a clear answer to that. But I actually haven’t. I haven’t considered that that before. So I’m not I’m not sure. The reason that I asked that is I talked with Kyle Hjelmesmith, last week, Hjelmeseth rather last week, who is a talent manager in Hollywood. But he handled strictly influencers. And he seemed to believe that women make far more than men. So I’m just trying to kind of collect data from a couple of different places to triangulate and see, you know, if if he has a limited perspective on the world, because he lives in the land of, you know, style, fashion and beauty influencers and not in the wider scope of you know, people from other verticals, because I don’t doubt that the hype auditor data is, you know, at least somewhat indicative of a certain group of influencers out there. But when a talent manager says to me that in his experience, you know, women make far more than men, I would love to see more data shares from more influencer tools and surveys and whatnot, so that we can get a feel for not just the influence pay gap from a racial perspective, but also from the gender perspective. So maybe this you know, podcast will help motivate some people to start looking. So kind of the last thing I want to touch on and talk to you about, I’m not sure if you have yet seen because you’re in the UK, you probably haven’t because I don’t think it’s available there yet. But there’s a movie now on HBO here in the States, called fake followers. It’s a documentary by Nick Bilton, who’s Vanity Fair writer in New York, former New York Times writer, but it’s another data set that I’m trying to narrow in on and I’m working on this piece for entrepreneur about it. And the data that I’m looking for is what percentage of influencers out there, do what he indicates the majority do so he thinks the majority of influencers is by far he thinks they buy followers, and by engagements to basically astroturf and fake their way to fame. And his documentary exploits one example of him taking one person buying her a quarter of a million followers and making her famous and he says that’s what all the influencers do, or most of them do. And so I’m trying To sort of track down and triangulate and say, Okay, wait a minute, that’s some data that we can look at to because we can probably figure out what percentage of them do at least anecdotally, what percentage of influencers out there do you think are astroturfing, their metrics? How dishonest of a practice is this? Really?

Edward East
I think I think it used I think it happened back a long time ago. And I think perhaps across, I think there were a lot of fake followers sports back in the day, but the industry as a whole has really tried to clean up in that respect. And I think influencers know that they’re taking a big risk by buying fake followers. And there are tools such as Hypeauditor, that help you judge whether an influencer has bought fake followers or not. And when you’re buying from influences, you can discount that rate by considering the number of fake followers they have. So I again, I’m not 100% sure, Jason, and I could, I could easily speak to our team and try to come come to you with an answer for that question. But I would say that it’s something that I imagine happened quite a lot early on. But since Keith Weed made that statement. While he was a CMO of Unilever, cutting back on never working with him to support fake followers. I think it’s made a big difference. I don’t think his statement was right, because a lot of influencers have bought fake followers in the past, but I would hope that the majority of them are now trying and now not taking that approach. And cleaning up.

Jason Falls
Yeah, I think the the the documentary, I think is at least gonna inspire more conversation around the practice and, and a little bit more. You know, I’ve used this phrase a lot this week, for whatever reason, but a little more sussing out of what’s right. And which influencers are more honest with their approach, then, of course, there’s the problem that these these bots often will follow people who don’t, you know, pay them for follows because they want to appear as if the bots need to appear as if they’re following lots of people, not just certain ones. So I mean, I did a scan on my own account the other day, and 5% of my Twitter followers are apparently fake, which I’ve never paid a dime for followers. So it’s an interesting conundrum. I wonder if a business owner or a brand that you were working with came to you and said, How are you going to assess and validate whether or not the influencers we use are, in fact, have genuine audiences? How would you address that question?

Edward East
Yeah. So within companion, we have, I’m actually just pulling up an email on my end, just to give me some guidance on on this, but we have, which gets a bit more information. But we have a fantastic tool. As I mentioned earlier, it’s our software companion. And it pulls in a variety of data sources to actually provide us benchmarks as to whether influences have fake followers or not. And it’s proved to be incredibly useful. So it’s our tool that guides us there. It’s companion and it gives you an audience authenticity measurement. So that’s what we work with.

Jason Falls
Very nice. Can you can you share with us what, what indicators it looks at to determine whether or not the audience is authentic or not? What are the data points that kind of come into that at a high level?

Edward East
Sure. So four key data points. First of all, it looks the audience to consider real people. So users who have behavioral patterns that are similar to the behavior of a regular person influences so it gives you an idea of people who have over 5000 followers. So it gives you an idea of how many people with over 5000 followers are following that person. And then it looks at Mass followers. So Instagram users have more than 1500 follower followings. Most of them take advantage by using automatic follow and unfollow third party tools. And then finally suspicious accounts. So those bots or people who use specific services for likes, comments, and follow up purchases, and we identify those suspicious accounts. So hopefully, that is a good answer.

Jason Falls
Yeah, that definitely is it sounds like you’ve got to at least a chance of being able to identify the accounts that are are are suspect, which is good. And that’s probably very useful for your customers. Ed it’s been a pleasure today tell me how people can find you. And Billion Dollar Boy online.

Edward East
Jason, you can find you can you can find Billion Dollar Boy at www.billiondollarboy.com or follow our social channels. And if you’d like to get in touch with me, please email mail@billiondollarboy.com and we will happily respond to you.

Jason Falls
Awesome, great insight sir. I really appreciate the time today.

Edward East
Thank you very much, Jason. And likewise.

Transcribed by otter.ai

The Winfluence theme music is “One More Look” featuring Jacquire King and Stephan Sharp by The K Club found on Facebook Sound Collection.


Winfluence - Reframing Influencer Marketing to Ignite Your Brand

Order Winfluence now!

This episode of Winfluence, the podcast, is sponsored by Winfluence, the book! Get a special discount by clicking the button below, buying on the Entrepreneur Press bookstore and using the discount code FALLS20. That earns you 20% off the retail price, just for being a Winfluence (the podcast) listener. Read and learn why we’ve been backed into a corner to think influencer marketing means Instagram and YouTube and how reframing it to be “influence” marketing makes us smarter marketers.

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