The line between “celebrities” and “social media influencers” is long past blurring. Here in the year 2019, it’s practically nonexistent. Ask a typical member of Gen Z about their favorite celebs, and they’re just as likely to mention a YouTube creator as they are an actor on the local movie theater posters. Digital-native content creators are the new celebrities. And young music, TV, and movie stars are increasingly striking influencer-style deals with brands.

Like we said: no more line.

Even so, for a brand developing an influencer marketing campaign, the decision must be made: go after a traditional celebrity to supercharge our reach and engagement, or a digital content creator?

By the numbers, both options are excellent. Big-name celebs and social media stars alike give brand partners access to vast, attentive audiences who can be hard to reach through traditional media buys. But depending on which route the brand chooses to go down, there are notable differences in terms of process and pricing that may factor into the decision.

Among famous digital content creators—the group most often given the “influencer” label—there exist broadly accepted rules around deals and pricing. Partnerships generally follow a pay-per-result model, and are structured either around CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions) or CPV (cost per view). An Instagram post may be more expensive than a Tweet, and a still image cheaper than a video, but a brand can go into negotiations with a general sense of costs. (On average, $20 to $40 CPM and $0.05 to $0.15 CPV.)

Campaign for Adidas

Content creator Hannah Godwin campaign for Adidas

YouTube stars DudePerfect campaign for ABC

Thanks to these common pricing practices, negotiations between brands and digital content creators tend to be straightforward once both sides agree that they’re a good fit. The brand is responsible for sending a proposal with their campaign ask (i.e. a post, Tweet, or Story), key messaging, and timing. The influencer is responsible for coming up with the content, working with the brand on approvals, and then posting. Generally, there is little back-and-forth.

Influencer marketing deals involving celebrities tend to be less black-and-white. Rather than working on CPM or CPV pricing models, many celebrities set their rates based on their last deal or last couple deals. Such a flat-rate model may seem simpler on the surface, but it often leads to negotiation, as the brand looks to ensure that they’re getting good value for the price.


TV Celebrity Kendall Jenner campaign for Calvin Klein


Brazilian Pop Star Anitta campaign for Samsung

The cost for a brand to book a traditional celebrity can also be higher than it would be to book a social media influencer with a similar audience, because celebs tend to have larger staffs (think of the agents, managers, and assistants) and as such, they get a smaller percentage of the total price of the deal.

Choosing the right influencer requires a brand to consider myriad factors. And while it’s absolutely worth considering whether a celeb or a digital-native creator makes more sense financially, the most important thing is to pick an influencer who is a good fit, who likes and cares about the campaign. Does the personality of the individual align with the brand or product? Is the influencer eager to endorse this type of brand or product?

If an Instagram star ends up being the right fit—awesome! If it’s instead a famous singer, that’s great too! With knowledge of how each category of influencer tends to approach pricing and process, brands can go into negotiations prepared to strike the best possible deal for their campaign and overall business goals.