IMPROVING INFLUENCER INCLUSIVITY
Updated: Aug 1
A STUDY OF BLACK+ YOUTUBE CREATOR REPRESENTATION & COMPENSATION (JAN 2020 - JUL 2023)
3.5-YEAR STUDY REVEALS THAT BLACK+ CREATORS ARE UNDERREPRESENTED IN YOUTUBE BRAND DEALS BUT BLACK+ CREATORS ARE COMPENSATED AT RATES GREATER THAN CREATORS AT LARGE FOR BRAND DEALS
How well are Black+ creators represented in influencer marketing brand deals?
How well are they compensated?
And is the industry being transparent about how we’re doing in this area?
Over three years ago we set out to find answers to these questions by examining Black+ creator representation in influencer brand deals on YouTube. Rather than settle for anecdotal stories of individuals or general trends outlined in the press, we embarked on a journey to bring more transparency and ultimately accountability to the industry by sharing information on Black+ creator inclusivity and payments.
So, twice a year for the past three years we’ve poured over CPM data for tens of thousands of brand sponsorships to see where things currently stand with the industry that sets the table for the tastemakers of today.
And we continue that work today to continue to be transparent about the industry’s progress and our progress as the leading influencer marketing agency in the nation.
In the following report, we unpack the findings of our research and what it means moving forward.
Data transparency is necessary to help solve the problem of Black+ creator underrepresentation. Based on over 3 years of research, Black+ creator representation is currently trending in the right direction but still falls short of the percentage of the US population. Meanwhile, Black+ creators are currently compensated by agencies slightly above the average CPMs in the US while programmatic platform compensation for Black+ creators still lags. Therefore, we believe it’s essential to commit to ongoing transparency to provide greater accountability for ourselves and our industry.
BLACK+ CREATOR STUDY OVERVIEW
In January 2020, The Outloud Group commissioned an ongoing research study to understand:
(1) Black+ creator representation in brand deals and
(2) Black+ creator compensation relative to the creator population at large
This research includes 245 different brands and 88,038 pieces of content, covering influencer marketing deals completed directly between the creator and the brand (often with the involvement of agencies/agents), as opposed to creators being paid through algorithm-driven ads established by YouTube.
This study spans January 2020 through June 2023, with data published twice annually to help with transparency around representation and compensation in the influencer marketing industry. An industry study found that 92% of influencers believed that the #1 way to address the racial pay gap was through transparency, an approach that The Outloud Group has supported through this study over three years.
Two key insights were discovered as part of Outloud’s 3.5-year study:
Black+ YouTube creators are under-represented in brand deals by 38.8% relative to the US Black+ population as a whole. In other words, if you were to select someone in the US at random they would be 38.8% much more likely to be Black+ than if you picked a creator participating in brand deals on YouTube at random. These figures reflect paid brand deals set up between creators and the brand, often with the involvement of agents and agencies – and do not reflect pre-roll, mid-roll, or end-roll programmatic ads.
Black+ creators were compensated 11.9% higher than the creator pool in general for brand deals during this time period at The Outloud Group. We do not have reliable industry data as a whole for Black+ creators, but encourage others to share this data to increase industry transparency.
In short, Black+ creators are less likely to participate in brand deals but when they do participate they get compensated at a higher rate.
BLACK+ CREATOR REPRESENTATION IN INFLUENCER MARKETING
While the US Population is 13.4% Black+¹, only 8.2% of creators involved in brand deals between January 2020 through June 2023 were Black+, indicating that Black+ creators were underrepresented by 38.8% relative to the Black+ population as a whole during this period.
In our last publication, for the first time in the history of this study, Black+ creator representation exceeded that of the US population as a whole during the second half of 2022, reaching a peak of 14.3% in the influencer industry. However, the latest data for Q1 & Q2 of 2023 now shows a decline in Black+ creator involvement, with representation falling back to 8.2%. This marks a significant decrease compared to the end of 2022.
Prior to 2022, Black+ creator representation peaked during the first half of 2021 (Q1 & Q2 2021) before decreasing in the following 12 months. However, as shown in Figure 2, there was a significant increase in the second half of 2022 (Q3 & Q4 2022).
In the first half of 2023, we’ve seen a significant decrease over the second half of 2022 that puts it back within the prior range seen between early 2020 and early 2022. It’s unclear what, if any, single cause is responsible for this dramatic swing.
BLACK+ CREATOR COMPENSATION
Historical studies have indicated pay gaps between Black+ creators and creators in general, but these studies have focused on algorithm-driven disparities. This study, in contrast, shows representation & pay differences for influencer brand deals that are negotiated directly between the creator (or their agent) and the brand (or their agency).
Data was sourced from 13,192 YouTube sponsorships run by The Outloud Group between January 2020 through June 2023. Over this time period, creator rates, independent of race, have increased significantly (Figure 3).
In comparing Black+ creator brand deals to the creator pool at large over a period of 42 months, Black+ creators were compensated at a rate of 11.9% higher than the creator pool in general. During this time period, Black+ creators were paid a median CPM of $60.42 compared to $53.97 for creators at large (Figure 4).
The compensation difference between Black+ creators and creators as a whole has largely been consistent over time with the exception of Q3 & Q4 2020. The spike in Black+ creator payments in this time period is correlated with the racial unrest in the United States in the months following the murder of George Floyd.
There are many possible explanations for the differences in median CPM over time for Black+ creators. We believe the opportunity for Black+ creators to engage in dialogue over price and value allows for brands and Black+ creators to align on a fair and equitable price, which is in contrast with the algorithmic pricing which does not involve dialogue or non-programmatic considerations.
THE OUTLOUD GROUP REPRESENTATION RESULTS
In the most recent 6-month period (Q1 & Q2 2023), The Outloud Group featured Black+ creators in 9.8% of YouTube brand deals compared to 8.2% for the industry as a whole (Figure 5). While this industry number falls below the 13.4% representation of Black+ individuals in the U.S. population, it signifies a notable improvement from previous years. However, despite this progress, the 8.2% representation still highlights the ongoing challenge of achieving proportional and equitable representation after 3.5 years of underrepresentation in the influencer industry. As shown in Figure 6, during the length of this study, the influencer industry has only included Black+ creators in 8.2% of YouTube sponsorships.
There is a general upward trend in Black+ creator inclusion in The Outloud Group’s YouTube brand deals since the first half of 2020, but representation has plateaued between ~10 & 11% over the last 18 months. During the first 6-month period of this study,The Outloud Group’s Black+ creator inclusion has increased by 36.1% from 1H 2020 to 1H 2023. Overall, The Outloud Group has seen a positive trend leading to an aggregate Black+ representation percentage of 10.3% over the entirety of this study (Figure 6). This data indicates both positive improvement and recognition that representation in creator brand deals still trails representation in the nation as a whole.
We attribute the increase in Black+ creator inclusivity at The Outloud Group to increased transparency and tracking. While not all marketing campaigns are designed to target all Americans, we believe in the importance of transparency and purposeful decision-making – and work closely with our brand partners to make thoughtful decisions. We hope that this data serves as a model for increased transparency and increased inclusivity in the industry and society as a whole.
Black Americans make up 13.4% of the US population, but were only included in 8.2% of influencer brand deals in 2020 through 1H of 2023. And while The Outloud Group’s representation (10.3% of brand deals) were slightly higher than the industry as a whole, these numbers still fall short of US representation as a whole.
As shown in the latest data from Q1 & Q2 of 2023, the representation percentage of Black+ creators in the influencer industry has fluctuated significantly since the start of this study in January 2020. While we witnessed a milestone in the second half of 2022, with Black+ creator representation exceeding that of the US population, the most recent figures indicate a decline, with Black+ creators being featured in only 8.2% of brand deals. This highlights the challenges in achieving consistent and equitable representation, underscoring the need for continued efforts to address underrepresentation and foster diversity & inclusivity in the influencer industry.
To address the recent decline in Black+ creator representation in the influencer industry, it is crucial for both brands and agencies to take intentional steps towards better inclusion in their campaigns. By actively normalizing diverse representation, we can work towards bridging the gap between the current 8.2% representation and the 13.4% Black+ population in America. This commitment to equitable representation will not only foster a more inclusive industry but also empower Black+ creators to thrive and contribute their unique voices to brand partnerships.
And while we are optimistic, this critical question remains unanswered: will the influencer marketing industry continue to make progress when it comes to Black+ creator representation in brand deals?
We remain committed to proactively seeking out Black+ creator talent with ongoing brand deals and consciously striving to ensure that these Black+ creators are equitably compensated for their participation in brand deals.
The influencer marketing industry is a leading force at the intersection of marketing and culture – and there’s still work to be done when it comes to representing Black+ creators in brand deals.
We believe that transparency is the #1 driver for improvement in inclusivity and The Outloud Group remains committed to providing this transparency for our agency and the industry as a whole.
CREATOR REPRESENTATION METHODOLOGY
The Outloud Group conducted this analysis to benchmark Black+ creator representation in the Influencer Marketing industry for 2020, 2021, 2022, & 2023 using two sets of data:
-- The Outloud Group’s proprietary data²
-- Tubular Lab’s Dealmaker data³
The Outloud Group’s data consisted of 13,192 unique sponsored⁴ YouTube videos across 225 brands while Tubular Lab’s Dealmaker data consisted of 74,846 unique sponsored YouTube videos from the top 20 most active US brands in YouTube influencer marketing. All videos included in this study were published between January 1st, 2020 and and June 30th, 2023. The 88,038 total videos were hand-reviewed with a simple binary tag, which marked if the YouTube channel that published each video featured a Black+ creator or not.
CREATOR PAY GAP METHODOLOGY
The Outloud Group conducted this analysis to benchmark Black+ creator compensation across Outloud’s influencer marketing campaigns for 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023. This study incorporated three-and-a-half-years of The Outloud Group’s proprietary payment data⁵.
The Outloud Group’s data consisted of 13,192 unique sponsored YouTube videos across 225 brands where a creator was monetarily compensated⁶. All payments included in this study were made for videos published between January 1st, 2020 and June 30th, 2023.
The CPMs⁷ were calculated by dividing the monetary payment each creator received (in USD) by the number of views to date (in thousands) that each video has received on YouTube⁸.
ABOUT THE OUTLOUD GROUP
The Outloud Group is a full-service influencer marketing agency that creates & executes strategic campaigns to deliver measurable results. We combine art & science to authentically tell brand stories at scale. You can learn more about our work with brands such as Fiverr, Athletic Greens, SimpliSafe, Grubhub, and Bespoke Post at www.OutloudGroup.com.
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