Bound by Rules? The 2021 ASCI Guidelines for Influencers

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Do you pay attention to social media influencers? Is their “content development” influencing your lifestyle choices? Is it true that they are promoting multiple brands in the same category? Does that perplex you? The Advertising Standards Council of India brings to you the 2021 ASCI Guidelines for Influencers.

With the digital revolution and the rise of social media platforms, viewers now have an abundance of options for consuming advertisements. The distinction between advertisements and content is becoming increasingly hazy, as digital content has the power to influence their choices and loyalty towards certain brands. 

Consumers may interpret advertising messages without realizing their commercial purpose, which is inherently deceptive. As a result, to assist consumers in distinguishing whether the content produced by their favorite social media influencers is paid promotion or not, ASCI decided to fill the void by issuing guidelines for digital influencers and content creators to follow with due diligence. 

Bound by Rules? The 2021 ASCI Guidelines for Influencers

The 2021 ASCI Guidelines for Influencers

  1. According to the proposal, the disclosure label is critical in informing audiences that the content produced is an advertisement. #ad #collab #promo #sponsored #partnership are the label options. While these options are subject to change as new terms become popular, ASCI would encourage advertisers, publishing accounts, and influencers to use them.
  2. To allow average customers to differentiate between independent user-generated content and editorial content, digital influencers must include disclosure labels from the approved label list. This helps the audience understand when a specific brand/product is being advertised. This rule is to empower an average person to decide their action based on the advertisement.
  3. For convenience and clarity, all influencers on various digital platforms must put up the advertising disclosure label in the first line of the caption, which should be prominent to the audiences.
  4. Influencers must use English or relevant language(s) when adding the disclosure label so that followers can read and understand it. While there is some creative license in conveying the message, influencers must make it clear to consumers that it is an advertisement.
  5. Simply including blanket disclosures in the bio section will not suffice to meet the requirements. There is no guarantee that all viewers will visit the influencer’s page. As a result, social media influencers must include a disclosure label on their paid promotional videos.
  6. Static images and videos on Instagram/Facebook/Snapchat stories must have the disclosure label superimposed over them. The viewers should be able to see it. Influencers must allow the label to stay for at least 2 seconds in a 15-second video, and in videos longer than two minutes, the label must stay the entire time. If it’s an audio platform, the content creator must mention the disclosure label at the beginning and the end of the audio track.
  7. Filters on social media advertisements are strictly prohibited because they may exaggerate the quality of the product/brand compared to the original claims. For example, if a content creator applies a filter to their post, the skincare or hair product will appear shinier and clearer. This could mislead a typical consumer.

Afterthoughts

The recently enacted ASCI framework was long overdue, as many companies in the beauty and skincare industries refuse to disclose their relationships with influencers for various reasons openly. The newly introduced norms would ensure accountability and force agencies and creators to produce more authentic, innovative and well-structured content. The guidelines will ensure that the digital advertisements match the brand’s values and campaign goals. This initiative toward providing new standards would not blur the line between paid and organic production and establish a productive distinction between the two. 

The latest announcement by ASCI will surely have a long-term effect on the influencers and advertising industry. Certainly, it will play a pivotal role in determining the success of this ever-changing and fast-growing sector. Whether experienced or inexperienced, famous or low-key, every influencer will now adhere to the ASCI guidelines. As for the social media agencies that manage influencers, they will have to make strict internal changes to match the new set of rules. 

In the long run, this is beneficial for both influencers’ market and the advertising world. The guidelines would allow for more transparency and creativity in producing branded content for influencers, thus enhancing their credibility and popularity. Now, talent representatives will be encouraged to think beyond the box and push the advertising limits to ensure that even branded content engages viewers.


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