Visa warns about the brand risk from influencers ‘running into trouble’

The head of Visa’s content division has spoken of the need to keep influencers on a tight leash to prevent them “running into all kinds of trouble” while producing marketing campaigns.

In a candid interview with Mumbrella Asia, Kris LeBoutillier said that brands need to do “due diligence” when sourcing ambassadors for content marketing campaigns to avoid the pitfalls of inappropriate or fake influencers.

Relaying a story about one particular campaign, LeBoutillier said Visa even had to once drop an influencer after some digging proved she wasn’t as “wholesome” as she first appeared.

“We do a lot of due-diligence with the influencers,” he said. “We had one – I think she was from Japan – and we started digging around. On her profile she came across as being quite wholesome, but when we started digging around, she wasn’t anymore. She was doing bikinis and lingerie, so we couldn’t use her. There had to be a certain look, a certain market you have to approach and represent the brand somehow. Everybody looks at the first page or two [of Instagram] but sometimes it pays to go back.”

A still from Visa’s ‘Korea Traveller’ film

Speaking about the campaign process itself, the former journalist explained how Visa and its partner agencies control every aspect of a video shoot rather than commission the influencer to produce it on their own.

“We make it for them and we always go on the shoots to make sure it was as we intended,” he said. “Some corporations have tried to go off and let the influencers do their own thing, especially on these travel pieces. And the influencer ends up running into all kinds of trouble. They’ll try and get an Uber and then they get ripped off because they don’t know where they’re going. Or they go somewhere they weren’t supposed to, or say the wrong thing.”

Formerly a photojournalist and an editor at Dow Jones, LeBoutillier first joined Visa Asia-Pacific’s self-dubbed ‘newsroom’ in 2013, as the brand attempted to boost its payment-related content in a number of spaces – including travel and tourism.

Most recently, the company has invested much of its marketing efforts in trying to encourage Visa card-use abroad – an major revenue earner through the overseas fees charged. The company has released a number of travel videos on its newsroom website, alongside shorter videos captioned ‘#notatourist’ on its Instagram page, over the past two years.

Regarding the return on investment generated by influencer marketing, LeBoutillier said it had so far worked for Visa because “we don’t try to make [videos] like a Hollywood production”. However, finding the right metrics to measure a campaign’s success remains a grey area, he admitted.

“[The metrics] don’t exist: we try to put metrics to stuff,” he said. “We try and look at things like the drop-off rates. How long people actually sit on a video. It’s hard to do [bottom line] metrics or those afterwards because we’re not necessarily selling.

“The Holy Grail is if you can actually tell me how success is measured in this business then I would say you have figured it all out. I’ve never met anyone who has given me a solid answer. Everyone says ‘this video went viral’; but before then did anyone know it would go viral? And once you look at the numbers, make sure there’s no click farm involvement, only then do you know if it did.”

Visa recently had its own viral success with its Thailand-targeted campaign Tokyo Unexpected, which, despite being a 15-minute-long video, had more than one million views on YouTube.

Although not directly involved in the production himself, LeBoutillier remarked that the film was “very beautiful to watch”. “Someone even said to me, it’s very Murakami-esque; a very moody piece,” he said. 

“I think it was the lowest drop-off rate we’d ever had for a video that length. Long content can be [a good investment]. But I think most companies will stick with the 60 to 90-second version. They’re very expensive to do; that [film] was shot like a movie. You have to have buy-in from a lot of people that it’s going to work somehow. You have to craft the concept; shoot, edit and get some return on it. The return on that film was that people watched it and watched a lot of it.”


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella Asia newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing