AdCr8, a dynamic creative agency, partnered with a popular influencer, Casey Star, to create an engaging campaign for AdCr8’s client Refreshz, an emerging ‘all natural’ drinks brand. Aiming to tap into the influencer’s large following for a significant impact with their common target market, AdCr8 structured a campaign around Casey’s vibrant social media presence.

The collaboration took off with promising engagement levels until Casey posted a video that contradicted Refreshz’s brand values, as well as breaching advertising codes. The post, which showed Casey engaging in risky behaviour while holding a can of Refreshz, immediately sparked controversy. The video’s virality brought an unwelcome spotlight, leading to a public outcry and a tarnished brand image – the exact opposite of what the agency intended and promised.

Amidst the backlash, Refreshz saw a concerning drop in positive engagement, a spike in negative brand commentary, and feared a major hit on sales. The brand held AdCr8 responsible, citing negligence in overseeing the influencer’s content and managing the influencer talent appropriately. All parties were on the edge, and a legal tangle seemed imminent as AdCr8 scrambled to control the damage on various fronts.

AdCr8’s first response was to review the legal agreement with Casey for clauses that could mitigate their liability, while also assessing their client services agreement with Refreshz. Who was ultimately liable for the conduct of the influencer, and in the hellfire of a PR storm, does that even matter?  Simultaneously, the agency advised the brand on a crisis communication strategy to salvage Refreshz’s brand reputation, and with Refreshz’s approval began to re-emphasise Refreshz’s brand values while simultaneously distancing Refreshz from the influencer’s comments, and the influencer themselves by terminating the ambassadorial contract for cause. Without a solid legal strategy, AdCr8 risked losing its client and facing significant legal fallout, including potential action for breach of the client services contract and liability for breach of the relevant advertising codes. By moving quickly and with a clear lens on the various legal issues, AdCr8 was able to protect Refreshz’s brand position. 

The significant legal fallout for AdCr8 could have been multifaceted. Firstly, they faced potential legal action from Refreshz for breach of contract, especially if the contract stipulated certain standards or guidelines for content that were not adhered to by the agency’s contractor, the influencer. Depending on the content of the client services agreement, such a breach could have led to substantial financial claims, including compensation for damages related to lost sales and tarnished brand image. 

The contract between AdCr8 and Casey Star included specific clauses for content approval, advertising code compliance, and serious social misconduct protection clauses, all of which were pivotal in safeguarding both AdCr8 and Refreshz, and gave the brand the ability to distance itself from Casey’s behaviour. Specifically, the contract mandated pre-approval of all content by AdCr8’s legal and brand teams and timely responses to agency requests in case of controversial content, all of which the influencer failed to abide by. These provisions allowed AdCr8 to manage the crisis effectively, highlighting the importance of comprehensive legal safeguards in influencer marketing engagements.

AdCr8 further refined its influencer partnership policies, implementing stricter guidelines and more rigorous content review processes, as well as screening talent more rigorously before engaging with them, and ensuring that clients were made aware that influencers can be difficult to control, even at the best of times. The scenario reinforced the value of meticulous contract drafting and strategic legal foresight in digital and influencer marketing campaigns.

Ensure your influencer campaigns are backed by solid legal strategies to safeguard your brand’s message and reputation. Contact Anisimoff Legal for expert advice on creating battle-tested agreements that protect your interests in the dynamic world of digital and influencer marketing. Explore our Little Black Book for Agencies for more insights into turning legal frameworks into a competitive advantage.

*Please note that the scenarios and characters depicted in this article are entirely fictional. While they are crafted to reflect real-world situations, they do not represent or refer to any specific individuals, agencies, clients, or real-life events. Any resemblance to actual persons, organisations, or actual events, past or present, is purely coincidental.

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