The Advertising Council of India (ASCI) on Thursday announced the final guidelines after many rounds of consultation with the stakeholders. These guidelines will enable consumers to easily recognize promotional content on digital platforms. 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.
Earlier when the draft guidelines were launched we had spoken to Digital Marketers and when we spoke to them today after the guidelines were finalised their response is they welcome such a move and hope it fuels responsible marketing which will be in the interest of the consumer.
Sanjay Mehta, Joint CEO of India – Mirum
The key element to the new influencer guidelines, is summarised in their clarifying document, and says “With great influence, comes great responsibility”.
While influencer marketing has been growing by leaps and bounds, and more and more brands use this route to connect with their consumers, space has been very fuzzy in terms of transparency around the relationship between the brand and the influencer. Far too often, these influencers got away with what was paid communication, without revealing so. And their followers got drawn into the product/service thinking that their favourite influencer is using the same.
This is very unique to digital space, since in the traditional media, it is very clear that there are actors or models who are being seen to be using the product. In digital media, in fact, it is not easy to make out if say, an Instagram post is a self-motivated post about a product, or it is a post for which the influencer has been compensated in some or the other way. With these new guidelines, this gap is being sought to be plugged, and which is a good thing.
Details about how to specifically call this out, on each platform, may emerge in time. Meanwhile though, this is a step in the right direction, in the interest of the consumer.
Neena Dasgupta, CEO & Director at Zirca Digital Solutions
I am happy with the guidelines that ASCI have come up with. These are well thought through and have kept the creators and consumers at the centre. The way every aspect has been detailed out and explained, is very good for all influencers and smaller content creators to understand and implement. The disclosure guidelines do not hamper the influencer’s creativity, nor do they seem to be intrusive for the consumers. And the fact that they promote transparency to the consumers about a brand’s association with the influencer is the biggest advantage. I believe that these guidelines, in long run, will allow existing and budding content creators (who are not yet categorised as influencers) to monetize their content and grow the sector.
Kunal Kishore Sinha, Co-founder & COO, ClanConnect
Having understood the fast-growing reach and power of influencers, ASCI is unveiling the set of guidelines that will majorly shape the future of sponsored posts and influencer-brand collaborations in India. The set of rules and regulations will go a long way in regulating the vast and multidimensional world of influencer marketing. The guidelines have been finalized after extensive deliberation and consideration of feedback and suggestions sent in by several industry players. Going forth, consumers can expect much more transparency as they navigate through the social media universe. On our part, we are geared up to guide influencers through the intricacies of the newly-launched guidelines, helping them meet all the requirements so they can focus on what they do best – create impactful content.
Rajni Daswani, Director, SoCheers
The guidelines are a good guardrail in the industry that has been unregulated so far. The fact that the guidelines are not extremely stringent and do rely on influencers to see that they do justice, leaves room for brands to explore ways to circumvent around it. A lot will depend on how influencers & brands adapt to it. Many brands are averse to the whole #Ad & #Sponsored and may now start drawing parallel compares to paid media, which might see the investment in influencer marketing take a slight hit, after the phenomenal growth year that it has had.
These guidelines will be like a double-edged sword for creators as well. While they will get a lot more say in putting out content that will work on their pages, influencers/creators who are doing a lot of branded content might see a hit in their engagement & reach numbers. Quality content will continue to win nonetheless. For brands, would suggest giving influencers a little more freedom in designing the content in a way that will bring out the brand benefits, as well as get content to perform better on their channels.
Himanshu Arya, Founder & CEO, Grapes Digital
Influencer marketing has become an integral part of the communications and marketing campaigns of brands and has evolved a lot in the past few years and this is why the guidelines were the need for the hour. It will facilitate digital media to serve their consumers unequivocally and make influencers more responsible towards the content they post. Going forward, ASCI aims that the industry would become more transparent by disclosing their collaboration with the brand as an ad, sponsored, collaboration, gift or partnership. This will benefit the industry by avoiding deceiving ads, and protect consumers from misleading, and would ensure that the target audience/consumer is aware whether the post they are viewing is paid or unpaid.
Also, in my opinion, this will not impede influencer’s creativity, popularity, reach or limit them experimenting with a different set of content because nowadays consumers are smart enough to make out the difference between a material connection and an organic post. It is a welcome change. However, a lot will depend on influencers as well and how they will abide by the new guidelines. The influencer industry is huge, and there are a massive number of nano-micro influencers. ASCI is a self-regulatory body and it can’t punish/summon people who don’t resort to the guidelines. There is a greater need to aware of micro and Nano influencers. I will call it the first step towards making transparency and trust the ethos of influencer marketing.
Ambika Sharma, Founder & MD, Pulp Strategy
With a complete transformation in the digital platform, the influencer industry has grown too fast. It is bordering on growth volumes similar to mainstream Digital advertising. As companies use influencers increasingly to promote their brands it’s very important to have transparency on the kind of content that one puts out promotional material. In most cases, consumers are often not aware or do not recognize promotional content on digital platforms. By the new draft guidelines issued by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), influencer advertising on digital media will be more transparent to various players, stakeholders and importantly consumers. Non-Disclosure of content origin or the fact that its paid is a transparency necessity in today’s times. Transparency should impact popularity positively, but there is no impact we foresee on the brand or the Influencer. To some extent yes, at least to begin with. Brands will now need to be more responsible in their choices and the content that an influencer creates, its equivalent to advertising and the claims need to be monitored carefully for accuracy. Non-disclosure is a disservice to consumers and is misleading. With the guidelines, ASCI will assist consumers, brands and content creators to ensure all stakeholders’ interests are preserved through a self-regulatory approach. The digital space is huge and promotional content is often indistinguishable from regular posts. Consumers have the right to easily recognize promotional content. These guidelines will help the consumers to identify promotional content and also guide digital influencers. These guidelines will benefit the consumers and the digital influencers.
Atul Hegde, Co-founder, Rainmaker Ventures
The final guidelines from ASCI are much more practical as compared to the draft release in February. It’s good to see that ASCI has consulted all stakeholders before arriving at the final guidelines. This is a good step forward for the entire Influencer Marketing ecosystem and will give brands, consumers and influencers a more genuine experience. The key now for ASCI is to implement this true to its word and spirit.
Pranav Panpalia, founder, OpraahFx
It has been a norm in the western countries for influencers and brands to follow very stringent rules in terms of communicating to their audiences, the nature of their brand promotion. With ASCI establishing similar guidelines in India, I believe it will enable advertisers, brands, and creators to be transparent with their audiences. This also helps elevate creators’ reputation in terms of being honest with their audience set.
Talking about the guidelines aiding brands to connect to their exact audience set, the guidelines will help brands garner very targeted audiences. How? Giving a disclaimer of a brand being promoted (prior to the content), helps viewers make an upfront choice about whether they want to continue to consume the said promotional content. Continuing to consume such content simply implies that s/he indeed is interested to listen to the brand’s promotional pitch.
Responsible marketing is need of the hour, and the ASCI guidelines for influencers and content creators will just fuel it further. With influencers now exercising due diligence before promoting any product/service claims, and maintaining absolute transparency about the material connections with the brand, helps consumers make informed decisions. Since digital media caters to a much more aware audience set, keeping it real is the only way to establish q human connection with them.” Pranav says.
He further adds, The Influencer Marketing industry is evolving rapidly. Existing social media apps are coming up with new features, while multiple new apps with unique content assets are being launched every day. Looking at this trend, I feel that the current guidelines will have to be looked into periodically and amendments will have to be made promptly.
Manesh Swamy, Vice President-Creative, Logicserve Digital.
The Advertising Standards Council of India has taken a great step by implementing these new guidelines. It is a very precise way to structure all the influencer marketing communication. I believe that the initial draft had a consumer-first approach, and that approach is visible in the final guidelines too. I like the detailing and the classification of the disclosure labels in particular. Apart from that, it’s also great to see that the guidelines don’t just focus on content only on the internet but also on mobile, NSTV, DDHE as well. I think that with the new guidelines consumers will now have the right to know about the content they are consuming, whether it is an ad or organic content. Lastly, I think all influencers, irrespective of the follower base, will now have to readjust their content strategies, realign ways of how they create branded content and share details about the respective claims. There might be some teething issues initially, but this will be a great step and will be beneficial for all in the long run.
Akash Choudhary, Fashion Influencer & Actor, represented by WORD Talent.
ASCI released the influencer guidelines in February, earlier this year. While a lot of us faced ambiguity on these guidelines then, it’s wonderful to now see the final draft so detailed out. The document clearly mentions ‘disclosure label options’ that not only protect the consumer, but also gives clarity on how brands and influencers can disclose branded content. The guidelines are extremely clear in definitions, how to disclose for different platforms and different kinds of formats etc. I feel this step by ASCI will open up a new world of how branded content is pushed out. We will now be able to work more creatively in creating our content, along with ensuring transparency to our followers