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Opinion: Don’t vote for me as an influencer

A company called Hopper HQ estimates that Justin Bieber can pull in $650,000 for a single sponsored post. Impressive, no? (via Joel Ryan, The Associated Press)

News item: In a bid to increase the youth vote, Elections Canada will spend $650,000 to enlist the help of 13 “influencers,” including social media stars, YouTubers, Olympians and a gamer, reports CTV

I turned down the music (K-Tel’s 20 Power Hits) so that she could hear what I had to say: “I am going to be a youth social media influencer.”

She paused. “Mommy blogging not working out for you?”

I shook my head: “Too many duck-face selfies. It hurts my cheeks.”

“You sure you qualify as an influencer?” she asked.

I bridled. “Of course. Just this week Ben Isitt blamed his troubles on ‘conservative political forces and their agents in the corporate media.’ ”

She frowned. “I thought you were a pawn of the liberal elites.”

I slapped my forehead. “It’s so hard to keep my media conspiracies straight. Honestly, slip me 50 bucks and I’ll say whatever you want.”

This is the heart of influencer marketing: paying for opinion. Get somebody with a soapbox and pay them for their heartfelt endorsement of whatever you’re selling, whether that be dish soap or democracy.

It used to be enough to get celebrities to do so in what was obviously somebody else’s ad (BTW, Jell-O, what happened to those Bill Cosby commercials?) but now it’s subtler, with the endorsement woven into the influencer’s own brand, casually inserted among his or her other social media posts as though the sentiment were coming from the poster’s innermost soul, not wallet.

Herding your own personal flock of sheep earns good money, too. Last year, a company called Hopper HQ estimated Kylie Jenner can fetch $1 million US for a single sponsored post to her 137 million Instagram followers. Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo can score $750,000. Justin Bieber gets $650,000.

Note that the amount Biebs fetches for a single post equals Elections Canada’s entire budget for the campaign in which those 13 influencers are meant to prod more young people to vote in October’s federal election. It’s uncertain who you would get for that kind of money. A Maple Leafs star? A Raptors bench-warmer? Somebody from Schitt’s Creek? Rene Simard?

“Put me in, coach,” I said. “I’ll do it.”

“You sure you’re best-positioned to sway Canada’s youth?” she said.

“Yes,” I replied. “I’ll do so by going in the other direction, telling them they need not bother to vote.”

This strategy capitalizes on my special gift: the anti-Midas touch. The hip factor of anything with which I associate myself automatically plunges by a good 40 per cent. I’m pretty sure it was my adoption of the spiffy golf shirt-and-khakis combo that killed Sears as a fashion brand. Studio 54 went under after I ducked in to use the washroom. The owner of my bike shop implored me not to wear riding kit bearing its logo; I agreed, for a fee. My form of influencer marketing is more like extortion.

This is the approach I will take with my Leave It to Dad campaign aimed at young Canadians, the idea being to alarm them into action.

“No need to cast a ballot,” will be the message. “We’ll do it for you.”

This will be conveyed through social media posts like:

• “Don’t worry about climate change and the terrifying loss of biodiversity. My generation has got it covered. Look, we banned plastic straws!”

• “Feeling so blessed to have got into the housing market before they pulled up the drawbridge. Imagine paying 7 1/2 times your family income for a home. #gratitude #I’veGotMine”

• “Super-appreciative of the government’s cautious approach to ride-hailing. On the other hand, I own two cars and am in bed by 9 pm LOL!!!”

• “So excited about the plan to bring back compulsory military service! For women, too! #gender equality #BecauseIt’s2019”

Just joking about that last one, junior. Or maybe not. Go look at the party platforms yourself to find out for sure.

As for Elections Canada, maybe it should just stay out of things and leave it to the parties to do their own influencing, to give young people reasons to get involved. That’s the best way to motivate voters: Give them something to vote for, or against.

- Jack Knox, Times Colonist