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ASCI provides the latest guidelines for influencer advertising

Madhushree Chakrabarty February 22, 2021

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has released guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media. This has been done in order to allow customers to easily understand the promotional content on digital platforms.

With the passing time, influencer advertising is gaining huge popularity in digital media. As per digital marketing agency AdLift, the country’s influencer market was estimated at $75-$150 million per year, while the global market is estimated at $1.75 billion. Influencer advertising is becoming the mainstream form of advertising space.

The influencer advertising guidelines will be available for feedback for all the stakeholders such as digital influencers, consumers, and industry till March  8, 2021. The final guidelines will be issued by ASCI on March 31, 2021, and will be applicable on or after 15th April 2021, to all promotional posts.

According to ASCI’s Trust in Advertising Report, the ad viewership on digital platforms is the same virtually in rural and metro areas with 82% and 83% respectively. The guidelines were in association with BigBang.Social to get India’s leading digital influencers’ views on board.

Subhash Kamath, Chairman, ASCI, said: “The digital space is vast. However, promotional content is often indistinguishable from regular posts. Consumers have the right to easily recognize promotional content. The guidelines will help consumers identify promotional content and also guide digital influencers. We look forward to feedback from industry stakeholders, including more influencers, which would help us make the digital space more responsible for all.”

Dhruv Chitgopekar, Founding Partner, KWAN, and CEO, BigBang.Social, said: “We realized the need for a responsible advertising ecosystem in place for influencers; promoting ethical practices, fair & transparent expression.   These guidelines will benefit consumers and digital influencers. We firmly believe it is essential for digital advertising platforms too. We are delighted to partner with a self-regulatory body that wants to be inclusive of all stakeholders.”

Draft Guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media 

1) 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 to the list of approved labels. 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. Examples of such advertisements could be paid music promotion in a video, promoting a store or a brand through a post on the influencers media handle

2) 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.).

3) The disclosure label must be in English or translated into the language of the advertisement in a way that is well understood by the average consumer who is viewing the advertisement.

4) 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

5) If the advertisement is only a picture post such as Instagram stories or Snapchat, the label needs to be superimposed over the picture and it should be ensured that the average consumer is able to see it clearly.

6) In the case of a video not accompanied by a text post, the disclosure label should be superimposed on the video in a manner that is easily visible to the viewer. For videos that last 15 seconds or lesser, the disclosure label must stay for a minimum of 2 seconds. For videos longer than 15 seconds, but less than 2 minutes, the disclosure label stays for 1/3rd the length of the video. For videos that are 2 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. In live streams, the disclosure label should be placed periodically, for 5 seconds at the end of every minute so that users who see part of the stream can see the disclosure.

7) In the case of audio media, the disclosure label must be clearly announced at the beginning and at the end of the audio.

8) Filters should not be applied to social media advertisements if they exaggerate the effect of the claim that the brand is making- eg. makes hair shinier, teeth whiter, etc.

9) The influencer must do their due diligence about any technical or performance claims made by them such as 2X better, the effect lasts for 1 month, fastest speed, best in class, etc. 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.

10) It is recommended that the contractual agreement between advertiser and influencer carries clauses pertaining to disclosure, use of filters as well as due diligence

Ready Reckoner for Social Media Platforms

  1. Instagram: Disclosure label to be included in the title above the photo/beginning of the text that shows. If only the image is seen, the image itself must include the label
  2. Facebook: Include the disclosure label in the title of the entry or post. If only the image/video is seen, the image/video itself must include the label eg FB story
  3. Twitter: Include the disclosure label or tag at the beginning of the body of the message as a tag
  4. Pinterest: Include the disclosure label at the beginning of the message.
  5. YouTube and other video platforms: Include the label in the title/description of the post.
  6. Vlog: Overlay the disclosure label while talking about the product or service
  7. Snapchat: Include the disclosure label in the body of the message in the beginning as a tag.
  8. Blog: Include the disclosure label in the title of the post.

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