An architect friend kept sending me these screenshots of an online influencer asking for “collab” and “ex-deal.” I looked at it out of curiosity and saw the influencer’s post asking if any of his followers know of a contractor who can do the structure in the photo below. The project, located in Bulacan, doesn’t look complicated at first.

The construction project talked about online as posted on Yexel Sebastian’s Facebook page.

Then the next line of the post mentions, in Filipino: “Maybe we can do Collab and Ex-deal. We’ll do a video and promote.”

After that post, my friend sent me a screenshot of what seemed like a “Collaboration Proposal,” highlighting (in bold) that this influencer has a “growing fan base (of) over 9.1M followers” in Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.  Wow, the number is even bigger than some of our media outlets here.

Based on the letter, and I quote: “Since we have (an) ongoing house construction in Bulacan, we are needing some materials that we think you can help us with. For this, we are thinking of having a simple collaboration with your Company.”

The letter added: “On the behalf of online influencer, we will not demand for any talent fee or any payment for this collaboration. As an exchange for (a) Sponsored Materials that suits the construction, we can offer you the best advertising money can buy – word of mouth, amazing quality montage & photo/ video review of other Materials you offer.”   Wow, amazing?!!

In short, the Contractor will build and provide materials for this construction project and as form of payment, Online Influencer will thank you profusely and promote you to his “loyal following and engaged audience.”  

Now, my friend is asking for my comment as he sent me numerous heated exchanges and varying opinions on various Facebook pages.  I said: “So, what’s wrong with it?”

My nonchalance is rooted in the fact that this is a business model now – an “open secret” that’s accepted in the real estate industry. Whether a company chooses to accept or not is another thing. But this is not the first time I encountered something like this. Right now, I can even name around 50-plus online influencers and celebrities who “demanded, pressured, or arm-twisted” company so and so in exchange for something for their homes, bedrooms, kitchens, and even play area for their kids. There’s even one who shamelessly asked for a pool!   

There’s this new house of celebrity D. His entire bathroom suite, which he kept mentioning on his house tour vlog, came free from a contractor and a bathroom fixture supplier.  The “free” interior design of pseudo-celebrity M came with a contract that stipulates at least 20 online mentions. Then there’s the kitchen appliance of online influencer R, she has to have her photo taken with that appliance as background.

Now, whether these companies’ “investments” on so-and-so online influencers or celebrities would rake in more projects and profits for them is another matter.  A car executive I talked to recently said they spent almost a million for online influencers to post, video, and test drive their cars and from their monitoring, the buyers who were swayed by online influencers averaged at three per month. They decided to return to the traditional route of advertising but still, they have to spend on promotions – whether paying for a good photographer, videographer, graphic artist, or a PR agency.  Even a Facebook post can now be “sponsored” to reach more netizens.  What do we learn here: Cash is still king and there is no free lunch!

I read some comments who bashed this online influencer, saying he is “heartless,” “taking advantage,” “a swindler in this time of a pandemic when businesses are hard up.” Some commenters even “computed” the cost of construction and the materials to half a million to a million.  Well, this is a free country and everyone is entitled to their opinions.  But when we talk about facts, do you even know the exact size of that construction project?  On the other side of the coin, do you know the cost of a small billboard along EDSA?

Now, this is what you have to know and I would be very frank here.

For every mention of online influencer’s name – whether good or bad – is an added revenue for him (“actual revenue” in terms of online ads and “psychological revenue” as this raises his online profile).  A tale as old as time, who was it who said: “Good or bad publicity, is still publicity?” While people argue online and type furiously on their keyboards, these online influencers are laughing their way to the bank, sometimes even on a “daily” basis.

To the online influencer, I just say: “Go ahead.” Last I heard, he has been replying that it was not his way of “demeaning the contractors, etc. but finding the best deal.” Let’s not kid one another. Who doesn’t want a good deal? This is business, after all. And this online influencer has bills to pay! To any construction company or contractor who would get the project, it’s a gamble whether their investments with the online influencer would return with more future projects or not. Sometimes you lose, and sometimes (with a stroke of luck) you win.   

Source: Manila Bulletin (