Social Media

New Guidelines Announced for Social Media Influencers for Disclosure of Promotional Ad Content

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has issued draft guidelines for social media influencers in order to bring transparency to digital media. ASCI pointed out that today influencer advertising has become quite popular, and the majority of posts that influencers publish are promotional, yet most of them aren’t recognized as such. This type of non-disclosure is a disservice to people and is also more or less misleading.

According to the new guidelines, all social media influencers will need to reveal whether a particular creative post (image, video, or written content) is an advertisement or not. Moreover, if there are any product placements, influencers will have to add a pre-approved disclosure label that mentions the same precisely. In addition to this, they won’t be allowed to tweak the disclosure labels and will have to stick to the permitted labels only. These new social media rules apply to all social networking platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, blogs, and other such platforms. All influencers should explicitly highlight almost all types of advertisements and paid content online so the people can distinctly make out that it is a sponsored post.

Further adding to their media statement, the ASCI also mentioned that influencers cannot get away with adjectives such as “2x better” or “best in class,” and so on anymore. Influencers must perform their due diligence about any performance or technical claims they make like “fastest speed,” “best in class,” “2x better,” etc. Also, proof of due diligence would involve agreement with the brand owner or the advertiser that the particular claim(s) made by the influencer in the advertisement is capable of scientific verification.

However, these are just draft guidelines, and feedback and inputs are invited from all stakeholders that include influencers, industry people, and consumers, until 8th March 2021. The ASCI will issue the final guidelines based on these inputs and feedback by 31st March 2021.

Once the guidelines are finalized, the same will apply to each and every promotional post uploaded on and after 15th April 2021. Subhash Kamath, the chairman of ASCI, said that the digital space is massive. But most often, promotional content is difficult to tell apart from regular posts. And the audience has the right to identify the promotional posts quickly. With these new guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media, people will be able to recognize promotional content without any difficulty.

For videos, the guidelines clarify that if a video is not followed by a text post, the influencer will have to superimpose the disclosure label on the video in a way that makes it plainly visible to the average audience. The same goes for advertisements that are only picture posts like Snapchat or Instagram Stories – the influencer needs to superimpose the disclosure label on the picture and make sure it is visible.

Videos that are 15 seconds or less in length must display the disclosure label for at least 2 seconds, and videos that are more than 15 seconds long but less than 2 minutes in length should showcase the disclosure label for 1/3rd of the video’s total duration. Likewise, for videos that are 2 minutes or longer, the disclosure label should stick around for the entire period of the section where the promoted company or its benefits, features, etc., are stated.

However, in the case of live streams, the influencer must place the disclosure label rhythmically for 5 seconds at the end of each minute so that viewers who only watch part of the live video can see the disclosure label too.

Apart from all this, the ASCI also issued a ready reckoner for social media influencers for multiple platforms. Let’s take a look.

  • Facebook: Add the disclosure label in the title of the post or entry. In case only the image or video is visible, it should contain the label itself, such as for Facebook Stories.
  • Instagram: Include the disclosure label in the title above the image or beginning of the text that shows. In case only the photo or video is visible, the photo/video should contain the label.
  • YouTube (and other video platforms): Place the disclosure label in the post’s title or description.
  • Snapchat: Add the label as a tag in the message body in the beginning.
  • Pinterest: The disclosure label should be included at the beginning of the message.
  • Twitter: Add the disclosure label or tag at the beginning of the message body as a tag.
  • Blog: Place the disclosure label in the post’s title.
  • Vlog: The disclosure label should be overlaid while talking about the promoted product/service.
Wrapping It Up

The new influencer advertising guidelines for digital media are designed to improve transparency across online platforms. Given how influencer advertising has become mainstream nowadays, the lack of disclosure labels makes it hard for the average consumer to distinguish between promotional content and regular posts. This lack of disclosure is misleading and a disservice to the audience. So undoubtedly, these new guidelines will help promote transparency and enable people to recognize promotional posts easily. Nevertheless, these are just draft guidelines, and the ASCI has invited feedback from all stakeholders, including influencers, consumers, and industry persons, till 8th March 2021. The final guidelines will be released by 31st March 2021 based on these inputs and will apply to all posts uploaded on and after 15th April 2021.