AiMCO’s Patrick Whitnall on influencer marketing being taken seriously

AiMCO - Patrick Whitnall

Speaking to Mediaweek ahead of the AiMCO Awards, Whitnall said the influencer marketing space continues to grow and mature.

“It’s a very busy time” for Patrick Whitnall. The former Managing Director of Publicis Content, housed within Publicis Sports and Entertainment, became MD of the Australian Influencer Marketing Council (AiMCO) in November, which held its awards show last night.

Speaking to Mediaweek ahead of the event, Whitnall said the influencer marketing space continues to grow and mature. It is increasingly incorporated into marketers’ overall mixes, as opposed to being left to PR and corporate communications to deal with, which he described as a “big move within the industry.”

“We see that influencer marketing has high engagement on the platforms. Whenever you see that type of success, brands will always follow. Brands want to be part of where you can create connections to large audiences and get better quality engagement,” he said.

AiMCO - Patrick Whitnall and Tegan Boorman, AiMCO chair

Patrick Whitnall and Tegan Boorman, AiMCO chair

What he wants to achieve

While his MD tenure started in November, Whitnall has been part of the council since its inception in 2019. He has witnessed the organisation’s growth and achievements.

“It’s a real honour to take this role on and take it to where we want it to go,” he said.

At Publicis, the content division he led housed the Groupe’s influencer offering. He helped build the offering within the agency and saw its impact on brands.

“That grew into me being part of AiMCO when it started, being the first to join, and going from there. It feels like a natural progression.”

He said that having experience both client-side and agency-side gives him a balanced perspective of influencer marketing, from working with creators, to seeing the impact it can have on a start-up commerce business, to working at a big agency such as Publicis.

He is most keen to provide value to AiMCO members this year and move the industry forward, including its accreditation, which consists of six modules that take users from the beginning to end of working in the industry.

He also noted that he will spearhead better connections with government departments such as TGA [Therapeutic Goods Administration], ACCC [Australian Competition and Consumer Commission] and AHPRA [Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency].

Whitnall also mentioned an incoming guide for brands and talent agents on working with child and family influencers in collaboration with the Office of the Children’s Guardian. It’s a passion point for him.

Whitnall said the work ahead will be a “continual progression” and added, “There’s lots to do, and we’re always looking at trying to bring out research and that type of value to push our industry forward.”


What’s ahead

Whitnall looked forward to the innovation in influencer marketing in the year ahead, particularly for creators, such as the ability to monetise content and the growth of social commerce (selling through TikTok Shop or Amazon’s Influencer Program).

However, he highlighted AI as a space that, while exciting, should be approached with caution as it continues to grow.

“AI is being adopted in so many places, across agencies through to creatives who use AI to help inspire them. I think there’s an interesting dynamic that will be growing from AI influencers generating audiences and where that needs to go.

“Importantly, as that develops, the things that already exist in place are things that we still need to continue to ensure, such as authenticity, quality of content, and disclosure.”

Whitnall also noted that disclosure will continue to be a practice AiMCO advocates as it works alongside government bodies such as the TGA, ACCC and ATO [Australian Tax Office] as the industry evolves.

Whitnall continued that in addition to releasing research reports and holding industry webinars, the organisation will be focused on giving back to its members through member benefits, training and education, and networking events.

“We’ve got a big programme of events coming this year that we’re yet to announce. That our members are engaged in and want to be part of,” he added.

AiMCO Awards

At last night’s awards show, AiMCO celebrated the best of culture, creativity, community and collaboration at Doltone House in Sydney.

In his opening remarks Whitnall praised the calibre of work submitted across the 26 award categories, the influence it has achieved, and the connections created.

Some of the evening’s big winners were Wavemaker, Fabulate, Social Soup, Sling & Stone, and Hello Social, as well as creators such as Ben McIntosh, Jules Robinson, and Bridey Drake.

The Most Influential 2023 award went to the L’Oreal Groupe for its Maybelline New York x HERO social campaign, while the MacFarlane Brothers won Most Influential Creator 2023.

Top image: Patrick Whitnall

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