The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) on Monday released draft guidelines for 'Influencer advertising on digital media.' This has been done in order to enable consumers to easily recognise promotional content on digital platforms. The feedback on draft influencer advertising guidelines is invited until March 8, 2021. Based on the feedback and inputs, the final guidelines will be issued by ASCI by March 31, 2021. The influencer advertising guidelines will be applicable to all promotional posts published on or after April 15, 2021.
"As digital media becomes increasingly pervasive and more consumers start to consume advertising on various digital platforms, it has become important to understand the peculiarities of these advertisements and the way consumers view them. With lines between content and advertisements becoming blurry, it is critical that consumers must be able to distinguish when something is being promoted with an intention to influence their opinion or behaviour for an immediate or eventual commercial gain," according to the guidelines.
"Consumers may view promotional messages without realising the commercial intent of these, and that becomes inherently misleading, and in violation of clause 1.4 (misleading by omission) and 1.5 (abuse trust of consumers or exploit their lack of experience or knowledge) It has also become necessary to update the definition of certain terms as they relate to advertising regulation and guidelines in the changed scenario," the draft stated.
Guidelines for Influencer Advertising on Digital Media Draft for Stakeholder Inputs by Republic on Scribd
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Guidelines for Influencer advertising on digital media
- 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. 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.
- 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.
- The disclosure label must be in English or translated into the language of the advertisement in a way that it is well understood by the average consumer who is viewing the advertisement.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In the case of audio media, the disclosure label must be clearly announced at the beginning and at the end of the audio.
- 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.
- The influencer must do their due diligence about any technical or performance claims made by them such as 2X better, 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.
- It is recommended that the contractual agreement between advertiser and influencer carries clauses pertaining to disclosure, use of filters as well as due diligence.
ASCI will issue a notice to both brand owner and influencer for violation of any guideline in the case of a consumer complaint or suo moto cognisance of a potentially objectionable advertisement. In the case of disappearing posts, a screenshot with timestamp would suffice as prima-facie evidence of the advertisement having been published. The draft guidelines have been prepared with a collaborative effort with influencers. ASCI teamed up with BigBang.Social, a marketplace for social storytelling, to get India’s leading digital influencers’ views on board.
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