In light of rising cases of social media malpractices and frauds by influencers, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), the country’s self-regulatory voluntary organisation for advertising, has released a set of draft guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media.
With social media content creators gaining popularity, they’re also being roped in for enhancing brand visibility on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Advertising with influencers often costs less than conventional advertising solutions across television and print mediums, also helping brands market their products in a more personable manner. However, given the persisting menace of fake news on social media where a fact check of claims is absent, certain guidelines for influencer advertising are deemed essential to protect consumers’ interest.
The draft guidelines require influencer advertising posts to include a permitted form of disclosure such as #ad, #collab, #promo, #sponsored, and/ or #partnership, either in the first two lines of the post’s description on social media platforms or if there’s no description, then the disclosure should be superimposed on the photo or video of the ad.
In the case of audio content with no description, the disclosure should be clearly announced at the beginning and at the end of the audio content.
Social media influencers are also required to do their due diligence regarding any technical claims being made by them in the advertisement. Evidence of due diligence would include correspondence with the advertiser or brand owner confirming that the specific claim made in the advertisement is capable of scientific substantiation.
Moreover, as per the guidelines, filters on images and videos should not be applied to those posts that claim that the brand has a positive impact, for example, “makes hair shinier”, “teeth whiter” etc.
More detailed instructions regarding the duration for which the disclosure should be visible on the social media advertisement, and more of the 10 guidelines, can be found here.
The council has invited feedback on the guidelines from all stakeholders including influencers, industry persons and consumers till March 8, 2021. Based on the inputs gathered, the final guidelines will be released by ASCI by March 31, 2021, and will be applicable to all promotional posts published on or after April 15, 2021.
“ASCI’s newly issued guidelines for influencer marketing will unlock a wealth of new opportunities for the fast-evolving segment that will result in positive outcomes for the sector in the long run,” said Kunal Kishore Sinha, cofounder of AI-driven influencer marketing startup ClanConnect.
“When a major industry body such as the ASCI deems that there is a need to introduce guidelines for influencers and the influencer marketing community, it shows how the market has evolved and has assumed a mainstream stature in the larger advertising space.”
While the ASCI draft guidelines are more like a to-do list for influencers working with brands, there is also the need to raise awareness about fake influencers, those who game key performance indicators (KPIs) such as the number of followers on social media platforms and offer to artificially boost these metrics for members of the public at large for a fee. The dark underbelly of social media marketing emerged into the mainstream last year when the Mumbai police investigated a fake influencer racket involving Bollywood personalities. Details of that story can be read here.
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