Digital Media - something that has changed the idea of marketing and advertising over the decades. It can be safely put that digital media’s growth is that of a dorky teenage kid who’s just been hit by puberty. It now has become an independent platform for digital content creators and advertisers alike. Audiences have gravitated to digital platforms because they have been devoid censorship and have provided authentic and raw content over the last decade. Same goes for marketing and advertising. Digital media includes gamification, teasers, promotional blogs, sponsored posts, websites, apps, you name it.
The social media influencer business is rocketing sky high as brands are pursuing and collaborating with these audience-attracting magnets to push their products from smartphone screens, straight to their doors. Marketers and advertisers are weighing in for audience friendly faces who create quality content that is potent and niche. But how do we know that the services or products being endorsed on the social media platforms are genuine? How authentic are these influencing accounts? There is a blurry line between a paid ad and a generic post. to comprehend this difference certain draft containing guidelines was introduced earlier this week, the digital media influencer guidelines.
Reason to Introduce the Digital media Influencer Guidelines
To distinguish between what is an authentic opinion or a strategic product placement, the self-regulatory Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) drafted the guidelines for “Influencer advertising on social media” in February 2021. So what are these guidelines and what are the gains for the consumer and the influencer? Read on to find out.
ASCI guidelines for Influencers on Digital Media
The main motto of the draft is to distinguish between genuine and fake influencers and to make the consumer a little more attentive. It aims to protect the average consumer from plagiarized or low quality services or products. Lets dive straight into it.
The draft asks the influencer to specify that an ad is an ad. You need to disclose:
- What: clarification that the piece of communication is an ad
- Why: it shouldn't be rocket science for an average consumer to identify that a video/post is an advertisement.
- How: by using disclosure labels that state the post is an ad.
- When: Upfront, before further engagement of the viewer/reader/consumer.
- Who: the responsibility is upon the respective influencer/advertiser/publishing account.
The Disclosure Labels
Digital media influencers are now required to post any brand endorsements along with disclosure labels such #ad, #promo, #collab, #sponsored and #partnership.
- These disclosures are to be made upfront that is in the first two lines of the post or caption and has to be a part of the posts/images in case of stories or feed posts.
- The disclosure has to be in English or the language (regional) that targets a specific audience and should be in a way that is understood by the average consumer.
- In case of audio media, the disclosure has to be announced clearly at the beginning and at the end of the audio.
- The draft discourages usage of filters which might enhance the look of the product, e.g.-makes teeth whiter or makes skin a shade fairer.
- Due diligence about any technical or performance claims made by them such as 2X better, effect lasts for 1 month, fastest speed, best in class etc. 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.
Influencer’s Take on ASCI Guidelines
When the guidelines were drafted earlier this week, there have been mixed reactions from various digital creators and industry participants.
Kunal Kishore Sinha, Co-founder of influencer marketing startup ClanConnect, says, "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."
Aayush Tiwari, Head of Talent Acquisition, Monk Entertainment
“I believe that the latest issued ASCI guidelines is a good step to secure the future of now one of the most popular ways of brand promotions - influencer marketing. As the guidelines states, consumers, here disguised as a follower, should have all the rights to know what’s being uploaded organically and what’s a paid advertisement. This declaration also will motivate the influencer to study about the brand/product and investigate their claims before they go all out publicizing them. Post formulation we’ll surely see less cases of misleading advertisements, safeguarding both the consumer spends and influencers getting caught off guard for their claims."
Sanjyot Keer, Chef and Founder of Your Food Lab:
"..Different rules for different content types and platforms would be very difficult to follow and even difficult to regulate as drafted by the ASCI. Other guidelines suggested by ASCI such as non usage of filters when referring to ‘whiter teeth’ and claims such as 2x better, are in the favor of the consumer. As a creator we always look into these claims before highlighting it in our branded content, but unfortunately i see ads on television not following such norms which are regulated often but also are not followed by many brands... The rise of influencer marketing and its potential is huge and yes, there should be guidelines in place but the guidelines should also not hinder content viewing experience. Working with platforms is a better way to start and content creators also should work with brands with their due diligence keeping their viewers in mind."
BeYouNick aka Nikunj Lotia, Digital Content Creator
"This is a welcome change. Many brands have their own directions when they do sponsored posts like mentioning them, putting a mention on copy or a link etc, this brings them into a common operating guideline of what to use and when. It’s a great starting point but it will probably also evolve from here onwards. Digital content creators have their own format of content, some do travel, some practice a skill, some entertain, brands are often involved in specific parts of the content instead of the content at its entirety. It can get confusing or misleading for the audience there. For instance, if I was wearing a jacket bartered with a brand on my road trip where I perform, my performance isn’t really a brand partnership."
There are a lot of ways in which these guidelines may be perceived. The draft has provisions for any suggestions or feedback until 8th March 2021. The final guidelines are to be issued by 31st March 2021. The influencers would be complied to imply these guidelines on all promotional posts made on or after 15th April 2021.
A Note To Influencers
As a part of the guidelines, influencers need to take note of events where there will be a requirement for these disclosures:
- If it's an ad for your service/product or a contest run by you.
- When you’ve received payment/barter for promoting a product or service.
- If you are willing to accept fees/service/discounts/hospitality in exchange of the promotion.
Final words - What is in it for Everyone?
The guidelines are only meant to promote authentic and genuine marketing. Advertising agencies will be able to create long term engagements with their respective ambassadors and the trust and brand loyalty could be kept intact.
As for the consumers, they will be able to distinguish between fake and genuine influencers and be seldom hammered with misleading ads and endorsements.
Digital media and the marketing gimmicks have proven to be so potent in nature as it doesn't cost them a fortune anymore and reaches a wider spectrum of consumers. Everyone is glued to their screens and the marketing industry uses exactly this to screen through their target audience. Every brand is resiliently battling for the consumers' attention and feeding off of the time spent by the consumer on social media. To wrap it up, we can say that guidelines will help regulate the faux and authenticity will prevail.