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Guidelines for influencer advertising on digital platforms to be out by next month

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on February 21, 2021

India’s influencer market is estimated to be $75-$150 million a year   -  Bloomberg

ASCI says influencers must ensure display of disclosure labels prominently

Soon, social media influencers will be required to make adequate disclosures regarding promotional content to ensure transparency regarding their paid partnerships with brands.

At a time when brands are increasingly turning to social media influencers to promote their products, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) is releasing draft guidelines for influencer advertising on digital platforms and expects to finalise them by March-end, after a public consultation.

The proposed draft guidelines state that influencers should ensure “disclosure labels to highlight advertising content” and these should be upfront, prominent and clearly visible on all devices. Disclosure labels should be visible within the first two lines of any given platform, it added. “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,” the proposed guidelines state.

Approved labels

Approved disclosure labels by ASCI include #ad, #collab, #promo, #sponsored or #partnership. According to estimates by digital marketing agency AdLift, the size of India’s influencer market is estimated to be $75-$150 million a year.

Influencers will also need to ensure filters are not used to exaggerate the claims of brands’ social media ads. Once these guidelines are implemented, influencers will also need to do due-diligence to ensure that any technical or performance claims made by brands are well-substantiated.

Subhash Kamath, Chairman, ASCI said, “In the digital world, the lines between content and advertising have increasingly started to blur. It is extremely important for consumers to be able to distinguish between regular posts and promotional content. We believe these guidelines will not only help consumers to identify promotional content but also guide social media influencers to become more responsible when promoting brands.”

Stating that these draft guidelines were formulated in collaboration with influencers, he pointed out that ASCI tied up with BigBang.Social, which handles a large network of social media influencers. “We look forward to feedback, which would help us make the digital space more responsible for all,” he said.

Dos and Don’ts

The draft guidelines have also proposed the manner or the required time period for the visibility of disclosure labels’ depending on the format such as a textual post, length of the videos, live-streams, audio posts or disappearing videos. For instance, if the advertisements are only a picture post (such as Instagram stories or Snapchat) or the promotional video is not accompanied by a text post, the disclosure label must be superimposed over the picture or video.

Depending on the length of the video, disclosure labels will need to be displayed for varying time periods. For instance, for videos that 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 are mentioned.

It has also outlined the manner in which disclosure labels should be used across social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and YouTube among others. Blanket disclosures in a profile or the bio section of the social media influencers will not be considered adequate and must be added to each of the sponsored posts in English or in the language of the ad, the draft guidelines added. “It is recommended that the contractual agreement between advertiser and influencer carries clauses pertaining to disclosure, use of filters as well as due diligence,” it added.

Published on February 22, 2021

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