Promotional content by 'influencers' will now be on the radar of ASCI

India's self-regulatory voluntary organisation for advertising, Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), has issued a set of draft guidelines in relation to influencers and promotional content on social media. All social media influencers will have to mandatorily label content that promotes products and services on digital platforms.

The proposals also plan to issue an exact set of rules and regulations that influencers will have to follow while advertising on digital platforms. Feedback from stakeholders, including industry, digital influencers as well as consumers will be collected till March 8, 2021. The guidelines will be finalised by March 31 and will be applicable from April 15 onwards.

This news comes when a lot of businesses are reaching out to influencers for promoting their products and services. However, currently, there are no exact set of regulations for promotional content on social media platforms.

Here are the guidelines proposed by ASCI in the draft:

1. Influencers will be required to disclose and label any promotional post. The report says, "Advertisements must be obviously distinguishable by the average consumer from editorial and independent user-generated content, to prevent the audience from being confused between the two. Therefore, a disclosure label must be added from the list of approved labels."

2. The list of approved labels include #ad, #collab, #promo, #sponsored, and/ or #partnership. The reason behind this is given by ASCI as “Only permitted disclosure labels will be considered as adequate as consumers may not be familiar with various creative ways in which advertisers and influencers may wish to convey that the said communication is an advertisement.”

3. The label will have to be introduced in the first two lines. Explaining the reason behind this, the proposal directs, “The disclosure label used to highlight advertising content needs to be upfront (within the first two lines of any given platform, such that a consumer need not click on see more or have to scroll under the fold), prominent (so people don't miss it), appropriate for the channel (what can you see and when) and suitable for all potential devices (it needs to be visible regardless of the device used, or platform such as website or app etc.). For better understanding of the viewer, the label should either be in English or translated to “the language of the advertisement.”

4. In case the promotional post is a picture or a video, the label will have to be superimposed over the respective image or video. The report says, “For videos that last 15 seconds or lesser, the disclosure label must stay for a minimum of two seconds. For videos longer than 15 seconds, but less than two minutes, the disclosure label stays for 1/3rd the length of the video. For videos which are two 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.”

5. While promoting on live streams, the label of disclosure should be placed for five seconds at the end of every minute. For audio posts, the label needs to be announced at the beginning as well as the end of the post.

6. Influencers won't be allowed to add filters to enhance the effect of the advertised products. “Filters should not be applied to social media advertisements if they exaggerate the effect of the claim that the brand is making – e.g., makes hair shinier, teeth whiter etc.”

7. Influencers will be required to pay attention to the performance claims made by the product. “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.”

8. A contractual agreement should be made between the advertiser and the influencer.

The report also mentions that, “Blanket disclosures in a profile/ bio/ about section will not be considered adequate because people visiting the site might read individual reviews or watch individual videos without seeing the disclosure on another page.”

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