Several influencers who have worked on ad campaigns with the marketing agency Mediakix, which has in the past boasted several established and powerful brands and creators as clients, said they have not been paid the thousands of dollars the are owed for their work.
Mediakix, founded a decade ago in Venice, California, is a “leading influencer marketing agency,” saying on its website it has worked with brands like LG, Old Navy, and Sony Pictures. But over the past six months, four influencers told BuzzFeed News they were not compensated for campaigns they created for brands via deals brokered by Mediakix — even as some of those brands said they sent Mediakix payment, a portion of which was supposed to go to the creators.
Mediakix had enjoyed a good reputation in the industry, so the missed payments were confusing to both the brands and the influencers. The influencers said they feel they have been swindled, and they are speaking out in hopes of ensuring other influencers don’t get similarly stiffed.
“I'm just prepared to count it as a loss,” Bethanie Garcia, of @thegarciadiaries, said of the $2,000 she claims Mediakix owes her. “And I just want them to be held accountable.”
Mediakix was acquired in early 2020 by another marketing company, Stadiumred. All Mediakix executives, including the founder, as well as most employees have subsequently left the agency, a source close to the company said.
Claude Zdanow, the CEO of Stadiumred, told BuzzFeed News in an email that he acknowledged the “situation” described by the influencers and blamed it on the pandemic. He said the company is working “to find the best path forward.”
“Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has substantially impacted Mediakix, as well as all of our businesses,” he said. “Mediakix is aware that there are creators who are owed payments and, with the support of Mediakix’s clients, we are all working to get them made whole as soon as possible.”
Despite Zdanow’s replies to BuzzFeed News, the influencers say they have had a hard time getting a straight answer from the company as to what is going on.
When Garcia decided to work with Mediakix, it seemed like any other sponcon job. Mediakix says its mission is to “empower brands to connect with audiences in a more meaningful, impactful way,” and it does so, primarily, by acting as a liaison between an influencer and a brand.
The brand hires Mediakix for a campaign, and then the agency finds the influencers, getting a cut of the profit for its efforts. “We’re experts in developing creative, strategic Instagram campaigns for your brand by partnering with top-performing Instagram influencers,” it says to potential clients on its website.
Garcia, through her manager, signed contracts to do two campaigns — for phone accessory brand OtterBox and photo-printing app Popsa — with Mediakix after the agency reached out to her in October and November. In total, she would be paid $6,500 for the two campaigns. Her manager confirmed these details to BuzzFeed News.
In the fall, after delivering the required materials, an Instagram post, and three to five Instagram stories, and waiting the customary time period between deliverables and payment, usually 30 to 60 days, Garcia began to wonder where her money was. After reaching out to Mediakix, she said the agency told her it had payment delays, due to some sort of “refinancing” being done with its accounts.
“We're like, Wait, what? Why wouldn't you guys tell us this?” she said.
Many months later, Garcia said she told the agency that she would tell her 159,000 followers what had happened if she did not get paid. After that, Garcia said she received $4,500 via a wire transfer from the agency. She says she is still missing the rest.
Another influencer, Ashlee Malleo, said she had a similar experience. After she did a campaign for Stitcher, requiring a “quick story” and post on her Instagram grid, through Mediakix in October, she said the agreed-upon payment date came and went without a word from the agency. She said she emailed and, after not hearing back for a few weeks, eventually got the same excuse: Payment would be delayed. She said she was promised several thousand dollars for her work.
“This whole thing is a little disappointing,” she told BuzzFeed News she wrote the company in an email. “You shouldn't have run a campaign if you don't have the means to support influencers you hired to promote it.”
Since then, Malleo said, said she has been receiving emails from Mediakix telling her basically the same thing: Her payment is coming, but has been delayed. According to Malleo, Mediakix has told her the payment issues have been due to problems like pandemic financial challenges and refinancing.
At first, Malleo said, she tried to be understanding. But when she reached out to Stitcher, the company told her it had paid Mediakix its full fee for the campaign, so there should be no delay in Malleo getting her cut. A spokesperson for Stitcher confirmed this to BuzzFeed News.
“They're just pocketing all the money from these big brands, but no one’s saying anything about it,” Malleo said.
Two more influencers, who asked not to be named, told BuzzFeed News they were struggling to get paid by Mediakix for campaigns they did with OtterBox. One said they are owed $6,500, and the other said they’re owed $2,500. The second influencer said the nonpayment especially stung because she had upgraded to an iPhone 12 specifically to participate in the OtterBox campaign, the earnings from which she figured could help to offset the cost of the new phone. That influencer declined to share her contract with BuzzFeed News, citing confidentiality agreements in the contract.
This was news to OtterBox. A spokesperson for the phone case brand, Kristen Tatti, told BuzzFeed News the company had paid Mediakix for all its campaigns, and it has “proactively and repeated[ly] requested status on payment to these influencers when they alerted us of the issue.” So far, she said, Mediakix has not responded.
“We place a lot of value on our relationships with partners and were very surprised to learn that some of our influencers have not been paid,” she said.
The third brand in question, Popsa, did not return an inquiry from BuzzFeed News.
Both Garcia and Malleo said they wanted to share their experiences in case Mediakix is still signing new contracts for campaigns with other influencers. They don’t want anyone else to not get paid. Zdanow told BuzzFeed News Mediakix “will not be executing campaigns until further notice.”
“I know all parties involved, including us, are very sorry and concerned about the situation, but we will be working ongoing with available resources to make sure anyone impacted is taken care of as soon as possible, although it may take some time to fully resolve the situation,” he said.
Garcia said the nonpayment has affected her family financially, as she schedules her campaigns in order to ensure she makes enough money to support them. Now, she’s at a loss.
“This is my job. My husband’s a stay-at-home dad. We rely on these campaigns,” she said, adding, “I kind of have been put in a really tough position, because I don't know what to do.”