Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), on Monday, issued a set of draft guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media, which will help consumers recognise promotional content. As per the draft of guidelines, social media influencers will have to mandatorily label promotional content.
The exact set of rules and regulations that influencers will have to follow while advertising on digital platforms are yet to be formed and the self-regulatory organization of the advertising industry has asked digital influencers as well as consumers to share their feedback.
Reacting to ASCI's guidelines for influencers, Chef Sanjyot Keer, founder of Your Food Lab says, "ASCI has announced the new influencer guidelines draft and as I understand it’s main focus is to ensure that an advertisement should be labeled upfront and identified clearly as an advertisement.
"Currently even before the announcement by the ASCI major platforms like Instagram, Facebook & YouTube already have norms in place to identify branded content so the announcement does not change the labeling process of branded content as such."
He further adds, "There are ‘paid partnership’, ‘branded content’ and ‘includes paid promotion’ tags on the platforms respectively. We use these tags whenever we are running a branded content campaign, which clearly distinguishes regular content from branded content. If a content creator does not use the tags, the content is flagged and pulled down, often content strikes are also put in place by the platform against the creator. So there is a system already in place by these platforms and if on other platforms such a system is not in place, the platforms should be advised to do so to regulate the usage of the tags/labels and not the content creator."
He says that this will make it easier to regulate branded content as different rules for different content types and platforms would be very difficult to follow.
"Other guidelines suggested by ASCI such as non usage of filters when referring to ‘whiter teeth’ etc and claims such as 2x better, are in the favor of the consumer, and 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," Keer says.
Saying that working with the platforms is a better way to start the regulation of promotional content, the digital content creator adds, "ASCI is a self regulatory body and it is a non government body and it’s role is recommendatory, which also means that the draft is a suggestion and not a legal mandate for now and the draft is open to suggestion until a later date. ASCI is recognized by various government departments and in the past the government has acted upon ASCI’s suggestions in various fronts.
"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 the platforms is a better way to start and content creators also should work with brands with their due diligence keeping their viewers in mind."
"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 also probably evolve from here onward," he says.
"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 in its entirety. It can get confusing and misleading for the audience there," Nikunj adds.
"For eg, 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," the YouTuber explains.
Meanwhile, Aayush Tiwari - Head of Talent Acquisition, Monk Entertainment has welcomed the draft and said that it will help safeguard both - the consumers and content creators.
He says, “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."
Reiterating the same, co-founder and CEO, Monk Entertainment adds, "It was long pending that the Indian influencer marketing industry followed suit and implemented a framework similar to the FTC guidelines in the West. Influencer marketing has been growing tremendously and is now viewed as a serious marketing medium by brands. Digital content creators now hold a similar status to that of celebrities and have the potential to shape the opinion of the masses. This is a welcome move and will help in building more transparency amongst all parties involved moving forward."