Brands: listen up! New influencer marketing guidelines have been announced. These are designed to encourage brands to be up front with their social media followers and to make sure your audience is aware of the ‘paid’ relationship between the influencer and the brand.
Here's what you need to know...
The new guidelines from the Committee of Advertising Practice ask that brands require influencers to notify their followers that their post is an advertisement in the title of their post or content of a Tweet. For image-based posts (such as on Instagram) the word ‘ad’ should be added to the image to ensure it’s obvious that the post was sponsored.
How many times have you seen an influencer post that looked a normal selfie with their favourite new shampoo or snack? Perhaps the majority of celebrities and influencers still don't make their paid promotions very obvious. You may have already started to see #ad or #spon on posts, but certain techniques can be used to hide this from all but the most savvy followers, which kind of defeats the object.
As celebrity and influencer marketing is becoming more popular (see our post on the Rise of the social media influencer for more on this) these guidelines have become essential. According to Shahriar Coupal, Director of the Committee of Advertising Practice:
"The point to make here is that our rules apply to marketers. We realise that brands are engaging more and more with people whose background is not in marketing. So they need to be sure that the influencers they engage are educated and informed."
Chief Executive of influencer network Buzzoole, Fabrizio Perrone, reiterated the need for regulation to reach more influencers, especially the 'Power Middle' (i.e. mid-tir influencers that have 10k to 100k followers):
"Right now any influencer worth their salt already abides by the rules around disclosure. Brands and influencers alike recognise the importance of transparency; when content is sponsored they don’t hide the fact that it’s an ad. It’s simple: consumers deserve to know when they’re being advertised to."
But there's a gap in the policing. According to the guidelines, brands whose influencers don't include #ad or #spon will not be fined or face other consequences. Inevitably, this will reduce the impact of the guidelines, as the companies that already flout best practice have no real incentive to fall into line.
As a specialist social media agency, we ensure our clients adhere to best practice influencer marketing guidelines and make it 100% clear when content published by celebrities is actually advertising. The ISBA recently published a template contract for brands to use with celebrities - which is also a useful document.
Bottom line - it is often patently obvious when a celebrity is posting a paid endorsement of a product, so brands underestimate the intelligence of their fans at their peril! Although these guidelines are just guidelines, they will hopefully help to clean up this relatively new form advertising that despite the best intentions of most brands and agencies, remains a rather fuzzy blend of casual endorsement and blatant pitch.