Report: Top Brands Spent $255M on Influencers with Fake Engagement

Report: Top Brands Spent $255M on Influencers with Fake Engagement

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

Influencer Marketing spending jumped 82% from 2018 to 2019 with top brands like Flat Tummy Co and Fashion Nova spending over $53M combined, part of the $1.9B total brand ad spend on influencers, with $1.4B on Instagram  influencers alone. The shocker is that $255M of that spend was on influencers with fake followers and engagement.

Influencer marketing is booming, according to a relatively new report which revealed that brands spent $1.9 billion on influencer marketing in the US and Canada in 2019, most of that spending, $1.4B  was on on Instagram Influencers and of that amount, about $255 million went to Influencers with fake followers or reach.

A recent report  from influencer marketing analytics company Instascreener listed the top brands that spent the most on influencers also shows those that paid the most money to influencers with fake.


The report broke down a representative month and detailed that in February 2019, for example, brands spent $86 million on Instagram influencer marketing in the US & Canada.

Influencer marketing has really exploded recently. The year 2019 actually represented an 82% jump in spending from 2018.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

Not surprising, if you follow any reality TV star or fairly popular celebrity, you’ve seen Fashion Nova promoted abundantly. The company spent $40M on influencers in 2019, with Flat Tummy Co coming in second at $13M! It wasn’t all chic boutique brands either. Walmart made the top 10 list at a little over $9M ad spend while SugarBearHair rounded out the list with about $5M.

instascreener report on most influencer spending brands

The big story, however, is that plenty brands spent millions of dollars on sponsored posts for accounts that have high fake followers and engagements. Among the list of brands spending too much for nothing:  Clarins, Shari’s Berries, Vicks NyQuil & DayQuil, Chase, Crocs, Kroger and others.

According to the report:

“To track influencer marketing, Instascreener uses software that analyzes nearly every sponsored post on Instagram. To estimate Instagram spend, Instascreener assumes “rate card” pricing of $0.003 per follower; actual price and pricing model differ by brand and deal. To estimate fake followers, Instascreener uses machine learning to identify patterns that differentiate real accounts from purchased bots. To estimate non-Instagram influencer spend, the firm uses proprietary spend data and research.”

The latest report indicated that the past month’s ad spend was up 1%  in January despite February having three fewer days. However, of that spending, $11 million (13% of total) was lost on fake audiences.

Instagram’s Crackdown on Fake Engagements

A lot of influencers, bloggers and ecommerce shops have noticed that their engagement rate on Instagram has been dropping but that’s partially because the social media site has been cracking down on inauthentic activity, removing bots and applications that automate likes and followers.

After dropping from 1.7% in May to 1.0% in September, engagement rates of influencers with the least authentic audiences increased slightly from September to December, Instascreener states.

Yet, it admits that the fake engagement is again on the rise because likely the apps that offer paid for likes and such have figured a way around Instagram’s efforts.


The brands with the highest estimated influencer marketing spend were:

  1. Fashion Nova
  2. Calvin Klein
  3. Happy Tea
  4. Stuart Weitzman
  5. Puma
  6. Tiffany & Co.
  7. Ciroc
  8. Daniel Wellington
  9. Flat Tummy Co
  10. Adidas


  2. Clarins
  3. Shari’s Berries
  4. Vicks NyQuil & DayQuil
  5. Crocs
  6. Raw Sugar Living
  7. VICI
  8. Chase
  9. Teleflora
  10. Kroger

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Jay Jay Ghatt is also editor at, founder of the and where she teaches online creators how to navigate digital entrepreneurship and offers Do-It-For-You Blogging Service. She manages her lifestyle sites BellyitchBlog, Jenebaspeaks and and is the founder of 200 Black Women in Tech On Twitter. Her biz podcast 10 Minute Podcast is available on iTunes and Follow her on Twitter at @Jenebaspeaks. Buy her templates over at her legal and business templates on Etsy shop!