ASCI Issues Final Guidelines for Influencers Promoting Brands
The draft guidelines initially were issued in February and after taking feedback from all stakeholders.
The guidelines aim to ensure that influencers explicitly disclose whether a content published is promotional or not.
| (Photo: The Quint)
The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) on Thursday, 27 May, issued final guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media.
The draft guidelines initially were issued in February and after taking feedback from all stakeholders – advertisers, agencies, influencers and consumers – was sought.
The guidelines will be applicable to commercial messages or advertisements published on or after June 14, 2021. The guidelines make it mandatory for influencers to label the promotional content they post.
Manisha Kapoor, Secretary-General, ASCI, said “ As part of ASCI’s increasing focus on digital content, we will continue to deploy advanced technology solutions to keep track of advertisements that violate the ASCI code."
What Are the Guidelines?
In a virtual event held on Thursday, 27 May, the following guidelines were issued:
All advertisements published by social media influencers or their representatives on such influencers’ accounts must carry a disclosure label that clearly identifies it as an advertisement.
The following criteria must be used to determine if the disclosure is required:
Disclosure is required if there is anything of value given to mention or talk about the advertiser’s product or service. For example: If the advertiser or its agents give free or discounted products or service or other perks and then the influencer mentions one of its products or services, a disclosure is needed even if they weren’t specifically asked to talk about that product or service.
Disclosures are required even if the evaluations are unbiased or fully originated by Influencer.
If there is no material connection and the influencer is telling people about a product or service they bought and happen to like it, that is not considered to be an advertisement and no disclosure is required on such posts.
Disclosure must be upfront and prominent so that it is not missed by an average consumer.
It should be placed in a manner that is hard to miss.
Disclosures are likely to be missed if they appear only on an ‘about me’ section or profile page, or bios, at the end of posts or videos, or anywhere that requires a person to click MORE.
Disclosure should not be buried in a group of hashtags or links.
Using a platform’s disclosure tool should be considered in addition to an influencer’s own disclosure.
If the advertisement is only a picture or video post without accompanying text (such as Instagram stories or Snapchat), the discloser label needs to be superimposed over the picture/video and it should be ensured that the average consumer is able to see it clearly.
For videos that last 15 seconds or lesser, the disclosure label must stay for a minimum of 3 seconds.
For videos longer than 15 seconds, but less than 2 minutes, the disclosure label should stay for 1/3rd the length of the video.
For videos that are 2 minutes or longer, the disclosure label must stay for the entire duration of the section in which the promoted brand or its features, benefits etc are mentioned.
In live streams, the disclosure label should be announced at the beginning and the end of the broadcast. If the post continues to be visible after the live stream is over, appropriate disclosure must be added to the text/ caption.
In the case of audio media, the disclosure must be clearly announced at the beginning and at the end of the audio, and before and after every break that is taken in between.
The disclosure must be made in a manner that is well understood by an average consumer.
Following is the list of disclosure labels permitted. Any one or more can be used:
How Will It Impact Influencers?
Kapoor believes that these guidelines will aid in promoting transparency and trust between the audience and influencers.
“For influencers who are here for long run and want to genuinely build their audiences, this is a good opportunity as this will ensure that an influencer acts with responsibility. The response to this feedback has been extremely encouraging,” she told The Quint.
Influencer and dancer Harshada Shinde, said, “Brands want influencers to promote their products and at the same time, they demand that it should not look like it is an advertisement, and this is a form of their marketing strategy. Also when we do not use any disclosure it makes us connect with the audience even better because the moment we display such disclosures, the audience loses interest.”
Influencers are now to do their due diligence about any technical or performance claims made by them, such as three times better, results expected to last a year, fastest speed, etc – a proposal that is expected to boost the credibility of both the brand and the influencer promoting it.
Ankit Agarwal, Founder of Do Your Thng, a branded content marketplace, said that the blurring of the line between ads and simple user-generated content needed to be corrected.
"Users not only have the right to know the difference between the two, they all but demand it. Disclosure labels are unquestionably a step forward in that direction," he added.