Video Influencers: Unboxing the Mystique

61 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2021

See all articles by Prashant Rajaram

Prashant Rajaram

Ivey Business School, Western University

Puneet Manchanda

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Date Written: December 19, 2020


Influencer marketing is being used increasingly as a tool to reach customers because of the growing popularity of social media stars who primarily reach their audience(s) via custom videos. Despite the rapid growth in influencer marketing, there has been little research on the design and effectiveness of influencer videos. Using publicly available data on YouTube influencer videos, we implement novel interpretable deep learning architectures, supported by transfer learning, to identify significant relationships between advertising content in videos (across text, audio, and images) and video views, interaction rates and sentiment. By avoiding ex-ante feature engineering and instead using ex-post interpretation, our approach avoids making a trade-off between interpretability and predictive ability. We filter out relationships that are affected by confounding factors unassociated with an increase in attention to video elements, thus facilitating the generation of plausible causal relationships between video elements and marketing outcomes which can be tested in the field. A key finding is that brand mentions in the first 30 seconds of a video are on average associated with a significant increase in attention to the brand but a significant decrease in sentiment expressed towards the video. We illustrate the learnings from our approach for both influencers and brands.

Keywords: Influencer Marketing, Brand Advertising, Social Media, Interpretable Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Transfer Learning

JEL Classification: M31, M37

Suggested Citation

Rajaram, Prashant and Manchanda, Puneet, Video Influencers: Unboxing the Mystique (December 19, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Prashant Rajaram (Contact Author)

Ivey Business School, Western University ( email )

1255 Western Road
London, Ontario N6G0N1

Puneet Manchanda

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business ( email )

701 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI MI 48109
United States
734-936-2445 (Phone)
734-936-8716 (Fax)

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