TV and radio personality Clara Amfo, creator and entrepreneur Francis Bourgeois and comedian, writer and producer Munya Chawawa got together this AWEurope to discuss collaborative work with brands, transparency and entertainment, writes LBB’s Zoe Antonov
Three faces well known within British youth culture today got together at the main stage of AWEurope to talk about their journey as influencers, or what they would rather be perceived as if not influencers, as well as their incredible brand work that has come to fruition after their climb to fame through creative work. Clara Amfo, one of the UK’s leading broadcasters and hosts, BAFTA-nominated comedian Munya Chawawa, and TikTok trainspotter Francis Bourgeois have all taken their first steps into the brand to influencer relationships and dabbled into some pretty impressive collaborations.
For example Clara, recognised as a powerful voice for change, early last year was named a Barbie role model and made into a Barbie doll ahead of International Women’s Day. Francis, on the other hand, bagged a collab with North Face x Gucci, where he plays a (surprise) train conductor checking people’s tickets.
So what really inspires these three to be as creative as they can be and what is it in the creative projects they look to get involved with that strikes their fancy when they first see them? For Fancis, everything goes back to his passion for trains - he consumes content to do with trainspotting and is in awe of people who do the necessary research and do their best to educate. When it comes to collaborations and projects he is clear: “The people that have inspired me have also made me believe that I need to make sure that I keep my core passion and my core values when it comes to any sort of partnerships or collaboration and make sure that stays really true.”
For Clara, Oprah serves as a massive root of inspiration for anything in her life: “As a female global broadcaster she is an absolute trailblazer. When I watched her on TV I believed that this is possible for me.” Clara is in awe of exactly how Oprah managed to broaden her brand through multimedia, while still staying true to her core pillars. “She just has got absolute integrity. You can see there’s nothing that she has said yes to, that she hasn’t thought about meticulously and hasn’t thought it is authentic to her.” This is what Clara herself strives to follow when it comes to projects and collaborations, and not just being the face of a product she doesn’t recognise or know well enough to stand behind.
Munya echoed what both Clara and Francis pointed out about brand relevance: “When Gucci came to you Francis, what I assume they did was they looked at your content and made the campaign very you. They knew it had to be about trains, if they had put you on a double decker that would’ve just been wrong!” He goes back to the days where he did motivational talks in schools across London and brings it back to the way we look at influencer-brand collabs: “When I was doing these talks, one of the first things they taught us is that kids have an inbuilt bullshit detector. So if you say anything that you don’t believe, the kids already know. And I feel like it’s the same with consumers - the second we see something that we know was for the check, we can see it.”
“I can’t stand it when people with public facing jobs love Colgate on a Monday and a week later they love Aquafresh,” agrees Clara. She believes that when brands approach talent and send them their briefs, research needs to be well done, as opposed to aiming to stick a face onto a product that their audience would not resonate with. Francis goes back to his collaboration with Gucci, where he says he had almost full creative freedom and that made it feel so authentic.
Munya believes that the responsibility to create authentic content lies both in brands and talent: “We can take numbers into consideration, but what we really have to look for is people who want to create good shit together on both sides. It’s very tempting to go to the person with the most followers and pick them. That isn’t the person who always wants to create something great with you.”
The conversation also covered all the beautifully weird ways in which Gen Z has affected both brands and influencers, as the generation that flipped adland upside down. Clara recognises that Gen Z is probably the most savvy generation so far and not only that, but has the most access to all types of platforms that make everybody have a ‘main character syndrome’ and become an influencer of some level in their own way. Due to that, she believes that when approaching Gen Z with collaborations brands need to actually try to be sending a message across and #spon does not cut it anymore. Not only this, but within Gen Z audiences there is a massive rebellion against the merged figure of all those perfect people on screen trying to convey the same message.
Speaking of Gen Z, Munya, Clara and Francis all agreed that younger generations are definitely tired of the ‘traditional’ influencer model, however traditional something so new can be. Munya actually expressed that although he recognises that his choices and words can influence a group of people due to the sheer amount of audience he has, he likes to be seen by the public and perceived by brands as a comedian. Clara seconded that and explained that although she has an influence, she still didn’t get into the industry to become an influencer and still strives to work on projects that make sense for her, for the sake of her own integrity. Francis agreed: “I think what I hope to be perceived as is a train spotter. Sorry if this is reality cheesy, but if anything, I see myself as an influencer of joy and positive feeling, whether that is through the medium of a brand collaboration or one of my normal videos.”