Nisha Qureshi
Influencer Marketing

GroupM's acquisition of GOAT aims to enhance influencer marketing with technology and safety

Satyanarayana Murthy Yerramilli of GroupM speaks about what the acquisition of Goat brings to the table and the agency’s plans ahead.

In March 2023, WPP, through its media investment group, GroupM, acquired The Goat Agency, an influencer marketing agency founded by Arron Shepherd, Nick Cooke, and Harry Hugo in 2015. This acquisition saw the integration of The Goat Agency with INCA- GroupM's brand-safe influencer and content marketing solution. The amalgamated entity was subsequently launched to the market under the name ‘Goat’ and operates as a part of GroupM Nexus.

Goat, specialising in data-led end-to-end influencer marketing, is now dedicated to bringing much-needed technology into the influencer marketing space. Satyanarayana Murthy Yerramilli, head of growth products, GroupM and also the head of the Goat agency, emphasises the agency's commitment to enhancing safety for brands, influencers, and audiences within the influencer marketing landscape.

Yerramilli notes that the ecosystem around influencer marketing has undergone significant transformations. What once constituted a mere collection of individuals uploading content online has evolved into one of the fastest-growing industries. According to him,  influencer marketing holds substantial importance for GroupM, and the media investment company is actively working to shape brands' trajectories within this space through the strategic integration of innovative technology.

The Goat Agency is actively developing various technologies to drive a more tech-driven and organised influencer marketing ecosystem.

These include strategies to curate the right influencer cohorts for brands through the incorporation of  data and analytics. Additionally, other technological initiatives aim to enhance the meaningfulness of partnerships for the brands involved.

“It is no longer about the follower or engagement count but rather looking at how good a particular influencer is for a particular campaign. It's about looking at whether an influencer has ever created some content that could potentially be a problem for the brand. So there are things that we're building as we speak that will assist brands in leveraging the influencer's reach effectively,” explains Yerramilli.

The agency is also incorporating regulatory aspects in its offerings for brands. Yerramilli acknowledges the existence of initial regulatory guidelines established by the Government and ASCI (Advertising Standards Council of India). However, he emphasises that there are other issues of paramount importance to brands, such as ensuring safety, addressing personal biases of influencers, and evaluating the tonality of the influencer’s profile and other posts.

“We would not want brands to be exposed to the creators or content which would not be adding any value to them.”

He illustrates his point with an example, stating that a brand under GroupM’s management recently employed influencer marketing for a communication campaign. However, within a few days, they observed that the same influencer had also created content for a competing brand. This instance underscores the need for vigilant oversight and strategic guidance in influencer selection to prevent potential conflicts of interest for brands.

“Now while there are multiple agencies that people can use to get their influencer marketing campaigns done, they would need someone to assist them to help them choose the right influencers by tracking all this. Those are the areas where we as Goat can add an advantage and differentiate us from the rest,” he explains.

Goat is presently collaborating with an extensive network of nearly 40,000 influencers nationwide. The agency is actively involved in guiding these influencers across various touchpoints like brand safety and content. “What we are trying to do is create something like a finishing school where we are actually educating the upcoming influencers and businesses on how they can grow through influencer marketing,” adds Yeramilli.

The agency is catering to nearly all of GroupM’s clients, and in addition to this, they are establishing partnerships with several external brands. Yeramilli highlights the agency's remarkable growth, noting that they have almost doubled their business. The increasing investment by brands in influencer marketing is substantial, with projections indicating that the industry is expected to reach approximately Rs 2,800-3,000 crores by 2026.

“We have an opportunity to continue to grow two to three times year on year in terms of the number of brands we work with, ” he says.

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