Food influencers, the controversy breaks out. How to distinguish between marketing and criticism?

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The news is as follows: an article in La Repubblica casts a shadow over the variegated ecosystem of food bloggers, influencers, instagramers and the like, taking its cue from a dissing between the youtuber Franchino Er Criminale and what he defines as foodpornari marchettari. Who is Franchino? Someone who tries places around Rome and criticizes (even harshly) or exalts what he tastes. Franchino can do it freely because he makes a fundamental gesture: he pays. The accusation leveled against his colleagues is precisely this: many express flattering judgments by not declaring that they have been hired by the restaurateur, with a fee ranging from the meal offered up to several hundred euros. In a nutshell: covert advertising passed off as reviews. True. So much so that after his complaint, many influencers ran to add the appropriate hashtags (posthumously): #invitedby if it’s an invitation and that’s it, adv in case of hosted with cash compensation. End of news.

Words are important

However, the article embroiders around the issue, launching bombastic accusations starting from the title, which even speaks of racket. From the dictionary, it says Racket organization aimed at the intimidating and violent extortion of money or other benefits from apparently consenting persons. Hypothesis of crime that would arise if, in the face of a proposal from the influencers with consequent refusal of the restaurateur, there would be an open or veiled threat of retaliation, perhaps in terms of negative reviews. However, no such cases are mentioned in the article. We then move on to a great classic: the suspicion of tax evasion. “Contact us, some restaurateurs also speak of black payments”. Likely. But keeping the sources confidential, we can say that a restaurateur confessed to having been contacted by one of the influencers mentioned in the article, whose proposal included a regular invoice, among other things deductible as advertising. As in all categories there are honest and crafty. But unfortunately, in Italy, whether you are a plumber, a doctor or tiktokerentrepreneur or VAT number, you will inevitably be suspected of not paying taxes.

Let’s do some clarity

Beyond the fact that influencers and food bloggers are not synonymous, there is nothing wrong with offering content on social platforms (reels, photos, stories), to promote third-party activities, taking advantage of your following of followers. Provided that the advertising are declared as such and taxes are paid on the fees. It may seem strange, but behind the production of content and the management of a community there is work, often involving several people. At the same time, those who decide to rely on them should not be blamed either. It is up to the restaurateurs to understand if, for example, an Instagrammer’s fan base is more or less similar to that of their own restaurant or if they want to link the image of the same to that of a world made up of food porn. But let’s reiterate a concept: those who invite or accept the offers of influencers simply make a different strategic choice than those who sponsor their restaurant’s pages on social media or advertise on the radio. L’influencer marketing (and we emphasize marketing) is a reality that you may or may not like, but it is useless to be scandalized by the figures requested: it is called the market and, if you are good, being an influencer can also become a very profitable profession. And Franchino who pays the bills and criticizes freely, what does he gain? He probably has another business model than the ones he defines marchettari. Given the numbers, we can assume that it profits from viewing videos on YouTube. We should ask him. What is certain is that, according to restaurateurs who received his unexpected visit, the return in terms of customers was immediate and significant. With all due respect to those who still look at the whole phenomenon with a certain snobbery.

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The article is in Italian

Tags: Food influencers controversy breaks distinguish marketing criticism

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