ASCI yesterday launched a set of guidelines to monitor Influencer advertising and promotions on digital media. This is to enable consumers to easily recognize promotional content on digital platforms.
The influencer industry is growing fast. According to digital marketing agency Ad Lift, India’s influencer market is estimated at $75-$150 million a year as compared to the global market of $1.75 billion. This is an industry that has become mainstream within the advertising space and is only expected to grow as more Indians go online.
Brands across sectors today are associating with influencers to get across their marketing messages. So, much of what influencers post is promotional, and a lot of it is not identified as such. Such non-disclosure is a disservice to consumers and is misleading.
The guidelines for influencers advertising on digital media will be available for all stakeholders, including industry, digital influencers as well as consumers for feedback till March 8, 2021. Based on the feedback and inputs, the final guidelines will be issued by ASCI by 31st March 2021. This guideline will be applicable to all promotional posts published on or after 15th April 2021.
We spoke to Manisha Kapoor, Secretary-General at ASCI on the guidelines and why it was necessary to implement them now.
What has made ASCI come out with these guidelines now for the digital platforms?
Influencer marketing is mainstream now and will continue its rapid growth to boom in the years to come. It is important to introduce clear guidelines for honest and transparent advertising in this industry. ASCI teamed up with influencer management agency Big Bang Social to get views from India’s leading digital influencers as well as several other stakeholders to frame these guidelines.
Today anybody with 10k or more followers become an influencer, also there are many brands that have suddenly emerged thanks to the digital surge during the lockdown. How does a consumer differentiate between a real brand and a fake brand?
The brand pool is constantly expanding, which is why there are certain guidelines that brands must adhere to to ensure authenticity. As regulators, the onus is on us to ensure consumers are protected. So, disclosures in the case of promoted content are important. As far as influencers are concerned, the digital space is full of macro and micro-influencers and it is for brands to choose them based on community, reach, impact, and other aspects.
We have seen many brands using influencers to sell their product, the brand vanishes once they have collected their monies from unsuspecting consumers, is there a mechanism by social media platforms to monitor this menace?
ASCI’s mandate is to look at advertising content and make sure that it is honest and non-offensive, and fair. What you seem to be referring to is a matter of fraud, which needs to be dealt with by law enforcement.
Will ASCI also monitor whether an Influencer has full knowledge of the brand /product they are influencing?
As a responsible brand and influencer, it is very important that complete transparency is maintained. The brand should educate the influencer and likewise for the influencer when it comes to the consumers they are influencing. Once the guidelines come into force, we highly recommend that the contractual agreement between brands and influencers cover this issue. We need influencers to do basic due diligence as to the claims they are making.
Today India being Mobile-first, many are not educated on how will they co-relate to the disclaimer?
For a person who consumes content in the digital space, awareness is automatically built irrespective of education levels. If they understand the basics of the digital space and the disclaimer is prominent enough, there is no problem. To further help with this, we have restricted the disclosure labels to 5 options so that consumers are not confused about vague labels
With the new guidelines will an influencer be liable to prosecution for endorsing or making false claims?
In case of false claims, the law now puts a certain liability on the endorser. As far as ASCI is concerned, the onus will be on both the brand and the influencer.
Will there be a forum for consumers to complain?
ASCI is a consumer-friendly body and easily approachable. We have not only established a network of platforms for consumers to reach out to us, but also launched the #ChupNaBaitho campaign to educate them about how to use these platforms to point out dubious marketing claims.
On average how many complaints do ASCI receive per month and how many are addressed to?
Last year ASCI received nearly 7700 complaints. Over 90% of complaints processed were upheld.