We recently had a conversation with Brandon Brown of influencer platform Grin about CGI influencers—computer generated avatars that seem to be real people posting influencer-like content and gaining followers. That conversation opened up some discussion about using the influencer landscape as a palette for creativity. We joked that Kentucky Fried Chicken should create a Colonel Sanders influencer account right now and avatar him back to life.

But when you think of the influencer channel as a creative outlet, you don’t have to use computer generated influencers at all. You can just script a fictitious influencer’s life, insert an actor or model to be the character and have at it. You can even insert a real person but help script his or her influencer lifestyle for them.

Bandolier Media stirred up the influencer marketing airwaves in 2019 when it it created @justaconstructionguy on Instagram. Omar, a coffee-loving construction worker, frequently posted about enjoying Cuvee Coffee, an Austin, Texas, based craft coffee shop, on work breaks. 

A tweet from his daughter saying her dad said he was going to be an influencer that included a screen shot of Omar’s account, which then had 75 followers, was posted on Classic Dad, a popular satire site for me. Some big accounts reposted and shared the story. Someone put it on Reddit. 

Within five days, he had over 400,000 followers.

The hack investigative journalists of social media started to chip away at the story. The account was almost immediately outed as fake and set up by a coffee company. Coverage could be found in Buzzfeed, Mashable … even the New York Post. Of course, by “coverage” I mean, “made up conjecture without facts.” They all declared it to be nothing more than a marketing stunt.

Well, here we are two years later and Omar the construction guy is still there. He’s expanded to TikTok. And he’s an actual influencer. And an actual construction guy. Cuvee Coffee is no longer involved with the account. But the agency that helped create it, whose owners knew Omar, is still helping him be the star of the show.

Bandolier Media consists of owners Daniel Stone and Lou Montemayor, plus creative director and owner George Ellis and creative production specialists Kelsey Hickok … and yes, that’s the entire full-time staff. They have turned influencer marketing on its head by being the first advertising agency that essentially creates influencers.

Their intent isn’t as overt as that, but it is what they do. Classic Dad is a Bandolier platform. The satire site has creative content executions like The Lawn Whisperer mockumentary series, brought to you by Scott’s Lawn Care. Duck Tape’s hysterical Duck Tape Man character on social media? That’s a Bandolier creation.

They’ve got a new influencer out there, complete with a storyline and ideas for the future in Unemployed Wine Guy

To a degree, all of these are influencers that Bandolier can then plug into creative executions for clients. And they’re good at it. The firm has been named a regional AdAge Small Agency of the Year award winner for two years running. 

Original owners Daniel Stone and Lou Montemayor joined me recently to talk about how their approach to social media and just having fun together has reshaped how one might think of an ad agency. They get in deep on the story behind @justaconstructionguy and reveal that while the daughter’s conversation about her dad claiming he was going to be an influencer was 100% true, they got permission from Omar and his daughter to manufacture the tweet so they had a hook to introduce the account to the world.

Honestly? It was and is brilliant. And while their approach does skirt the lines of how transparent one should be with something amazing that isn’t quite 100 percent organic, there’s no intention at Bandolier to dupe anyone. They’re just having fun with online content and using the influencer channel as a creative outlet. 

This episode of Winfluence, the podcast, is sponsored by Julius. You owe it to yourself to do a demo of Julius today!

I mention that software more than others in my book because it’s the platform I’ve been using for a few years now to find influencers, engage with them and manage campaigns. Julius has powerful filters that let me drill down find just the gardening influencers in New England. Or the people who get excited about brick oven pizza. But it certainly also gives me the mega influencers and celebrity influencers I might need to help promote anything from stationery to toothpaste.

And in most cases, it has contact information so I don’t have to go fishing to reach them.

Oh, and they have their own audience health score to help you weed out ones with suspect audiences or engagement. 

All the elements of campaign management are in the software, too. I love the fact I can assign a purchase price or value to every single social deliverable that is a part of campaign, automatically track it based on the influencer using our campaign hashtag, and get an ROI report for each element. 

You know I wouldn’t say this if it wasn’t true — You owe it to your brand or agency to do a demo of Julius today. Go to jason.online/julius and request one. That’s jason.online/julius.

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

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