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#BlockOut24 for dummies: 101 on the movement forcing influencers to take a stand

#BlockOut24 for dummies: 101 on the movement forcing influencers to take a stand

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As the war between Israel and Gaza continues to rage on, a new social media movement has emerged targeting celebrities and influencers who are seen to be insensitive, uncaring or supportive of Israel's attacks against Palestine. 

The campaign, #BlockOut24 took off after the Met Gala on May 6 and has impacted massive celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Beyonce, Nick Jonas, Justin Timberlake, Selena Gomez and more. 

Don't miss: It's a woke world: How can brands manage their image while taking a stand?

The movement is a critical one for marketers to take note of particularly with the political instability globally and how important it is for brand ambassadors to say (or not say) the right things. 

Below, MARKETING-INTERACTIVE breaks down what the movement is all about, why marketers need to pay attention and what they can do if they find their ambassadors part of the list.  

What is #BlockOut24?

#BlockOut24 is a movement where social media users collectively block influencers or celebrities who have not used their platforms for people in need and who have remained silent in the face of the ongoing war.  

According to media intelligence firm CARMA, the hashtag picked up mentions following the Met Gala on May 6 which saw Hollywood's biggest and greatest walking the red carpet in astounding displays of wealth while people in Gaza continued to suffer. 

The effort was started by a number of TikTok creators and hopes to put pressure on celebrities to use their platforms to advocate for ceasefire calls. 

What about #LetThemEatCake?

In tandem with the rise of #BlockOut24 also came the rise of the hashtag #LetThemEat Cake which has been used alongside the campaign to block celebrities. 

On May 7, TikTok Influencer Haley Kalil posted a video of herself lip-syncing the words "let them eat cake" outside the Met Gala. 

The words, which were attributed to Marie Antoinette, the queen of France during the French Revolution, has become directly linked to a person of influence being so disconnected from the lives of normal citizens that they would suggest they eat cake rather than bread, which many struggle to find. 

The video stirred up anger online particularly because Gaza is currently suffering from a shortage of food in addition to being subject to attacks. 

While Kalil has since issued an apology, the hashtag has remained a crucial part of the blocking movement. 

How does blocking a celebrity or influencer aid the movement? 

Considering that social media celebrities rely on views, engagement, followers and general visibility, blocking them will reduce their engagement metrics.

With less engagement and interaction, social media algorithms will begin to deprioritise their content. 

This will in turn affect the brand deals that they are able to attract which is often a crucial source of income particularly for influencers.

From a marketing standpoint, the potential for Blockout 2024 to shape the creator space across the world is "huge", according to Lee Chin Chuan, Country Manager, Malaysia at AnyMind Group.

This affects the potential reach and effectiveness of creator content, which in turn shapes the success of influencer marketing campaigns, he said, adding:

Marketers who do not pay heed to this stand to lose out not just in the short term but may also incur long-term implications for their brand.

Why do marketers need to pay attention to #BlockOut24?

#BlockOut2024 is more than a TikTok trend. It is representative of a significant shift in the way consumers perceive influencers, celebrities and big brands.

"It’s cancel culture on steroids," said Sunny Johar, managing director and head of digital strategy at KRDS. 

As marketers, the most immediate takeaway should be re-examining your influencer strategy, added Johar. Even prior to #BlockOut2024, netizens were becoming savvy about a lack of authenticity in influencer marketing, coupled with adjacent macro trends against over-consumption, such as deinfluencing and no buy.

"This digital uprising first started months ago with influencer brand trips being seen as tasteless. Netizens felt the money could've been better spent rewarding loyal customers or donated to make a difference, and started boycotting certain brands," she explained. 

Netizens have always been vocal about out-of-touch celebrities and brands. However, the key difference today is that digitally savvy Gen Zers are taking action, she said. "With platforms such as TikTok democratising algorithms, everyday users are leveraging their power to diminish the influence of certain celebrities, influencers, and brands they find unworthy of the spotlight."

She added that the perceived commoditisation of content has led many brands to believe that the need for expertise in social media content creation has diminished, and that speed is the ultimate metric.

"However, if #BlockOut2024 teaches us anything, it’s that for a brand or influencer to navigate the digital space successfully, content should be mindfully created with a mix of creativity, strategy and a keen sense of public opinion," said Johar. 

What can marketers do if their celebrity or influencer is part of the #BlockOut24 list?

If your influencer is associated with the block list, first, immediately pause all ads for re-evaluation, explained Johar.

"Second, understand how the influencer is addressing the issue and whether reinstatement is possible. Some influencers worsen the situation with tone-deaf apologies and inauthentic content, she said, adding that it is also important to remember that Gen Zers are not neutral. 

Your brand might benefit from taking a stand. Issue a public statement that your relationship with the influencer is on hold until further notice.

Agreeing with her, Charu Srivastava, co-founder, chief strategy officer and corporate affairs lead at TriOn & Co explained that the anger and helplessness people feel towards the ongoing war is being channeled through this campaign.

As a result, she suggests as a first step, to acknowledge the situation at hand. "Put out a statement. The statement can be neutral and balanced, but it needs to acknowledge the feelings of the audience," she said. 

"If celebrities and influencers choose to remain quiet, then they need to make peace with losing followers and brand deals. This is the reality of the highly connected and vocal consumers of today that are not afraid of standing up for their beliefs," she added. 

Photo courtesy Filasteeni, Kim Kardashian, Instagram 

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