It is necessary to regulate the same by encouraging the influencer to adopt transparent mechanisms to advertise sponsored products.
The Advertising Standards Council of India (herein referred to as ASCI) on 22nd February 2021 released draft guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media. At the outset, these guidelines aim to help the consumers identify advertising content on digital platform and distinguish the same from user-generated content.
Need for the Guidelines
In the recent decade, there has been a rapid growth in the influencer industry. As per digital marketing agency, Adlift, the influencer market in India is approximately $75 to $150 million a year as compared to the global market of $1.75 billion. Further, per the ASCI’s Trust in the Advertising report, in December 2020, the viewership of ads in India on digital platforms has been estimated to 82 percent in rural areas and 83 percent in metro areas. Therefore, after taking into account the growth in digital advertising, the influencer guidelines were considered to be the need of the hour and the draft guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media were introduced by ASCI.
- There must be a disclosure label in case of advertisement, which must be used to highlight advertising content.
- The disclosure label needs to be at a conspicuous place in the digital platform, it must be prominent, appropriate for the channel and must be suitable for all possible devices, that is, it needs to be visible irrespective of the device or platform used.
- The language used in the disclosure label must be in English or translated to the language of the advertisement in a form that may be understood by an average consumer viewing such advertisement.
- In cases where the advertisement is merely a picture as the case in Instagram Stories the label is required to be superimposed over such picture, and must ensure that an average consumer is able to view the same
- In case of an audio, the disclosure label is to announced at the beginning of the audio and not at its end
- In cases of advertisement through video that is not accompanied by a caption/text, the disclosure label is to be superimposed on the video in a way that is easily visible to the viewer. ASCI further clarified that in case of videos up to 15 seconds, the disclosure label must is to be shown for a minimum of 2 seconds. In cases of videos that are longer than 15 seconds, but less than 2 minutes, the disclosure label is to be shown for at least one third of the length of such video. For videos that are 2 minutes or longer, the disclosure label must be shown for the entire duration of the section in which the brand promoted or its characteristics are mentioned. Further, in cases of live streams, the disclosure label is to be shown periodically, for 5 seconds at the end of every minute so that users that are a part of the live stream can see the disclosure.
- The guidelines prohibit the usage of filters by influencers in case such filters exaggerate the effect of the claim made by the brand endorsed.
- The influencers are also obligated to do their due diligence regarding any performance or technical claims made, eg. 2 times better, best in a category, effect lasts for a month, etc. The guidelines clarified that correspondence between the advertiser or the brand owner confirming that such claims made in the advertisement can be substantiated scientifically shall be considered as evidence.
The growth in the influencer industry has also led to the growth in the influencer platform market. This has raised concerns about the viability of the claims made by them. Therefore, it is necessary to regulate the same by encouraging the influencer to adopt transparent mechanisms to advertise sponsored products. This protects the consumers from being misled and also holds the influencers accountable for the products they sponsor.