Consumer goods giant Unilever’s venture fund joined two other VCs to invest a total of $12 million in CreatorIQ, an influencer marketing platform.
The series B funding round was led by growth equity fund TVC Capital, joined by Unilever Ventures and Affinity Group (a partnership between Evolution Media and TPG Growth).
Los Angeles-based company CreatorIQ, which has approximately 2,000 clients (among them brands such as Airbnb, Dell, Disney, Ralph Lauren, and Mattel) has developed an influencer marketing platform that provides software tools to help companies manage their influencer marketing campaigns.
The influencer marketing industry is currently red hot – a recently released study by InfluencerDB stated that the 20 best-performing brands of 2018 collaborated, on average, with 726 influencers for marketing campaigns. In addition, the five best-performing brands of 2018 (Fashion Nova, Gucci, LikeToKnow.it, Zara and Nike) generated between $168 million to $588 million each in total media value via social media posts about the brands.
“The most impactful brand stories no longer come directly from brands. They are told in collaboration with passionate advocates who are helping build culturally relevant companies by delivering these stories to the world,” said CreatorIQ founder and CEO Igor Vaks. “We see organizations of all sizes embracing new ways of building relationships with their customers, and brand advocacy has proven to be a competitive advantage. Brands are turning to influencer marketing because it drives results…”
However, issues such as follower fraud tend to bring a bad name to the influencer marketing space. A recent case involved Instagram influencer arii, who had more than 2 million followers on Instagram and 800,000 YouTube subscribers but failed to sell 36 clothing items (the minimum requirement of her producer) when launching her own brand.
With its recently raised funding, CreatorIQ plans to further develop its software platform, dubbed the Enterprise Creator Cloud, which uses AI to allow brands to select the right influencers for their campaigns, streamline workflow, meaningfully measure results, ensure brand safety, and tackle the “follower fraud epidemic” by developing an algorithm which will assess the authenticity of influencers’ followers.
Unilever, which is Europe’s seventh most valuable organization, has previously expressed public concern about follower fraud and other issues plaguing the influencer marketing sector. Last year, Unilever CMO Keith Weed vowed that the company would work toward improving transparency and integrity in the space, in order to rebuild consumer trust, by refusing to buy fake followers or collaborate with influencers who do so. The recent investment in CreatorIQ furthers the company’s commitments in this regard.
“The entire digital advertising ecosystem understands the important role creators are playing in advertising and brand building; the industry needs forward-thinking companies to address issues like data transparency and fraud,” said Executive Vice President and Group CEO at Unilever Prestige Vasiliki Petrou. “CreatorIQ is proactively developing solutions that empower Unilever to continue to set global measurement standards for the influencer marketing industry. Their platform enhances the quality and integrity of our brands’ campaigns by safeguarding against follower fraud and brand safety issues.”