The Impact Of ASCI Influencer Marketing Guidelines

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ASCI Influencer Marketing

The new guidelines by ASCI drafted in collaboration with the industry has been a subject of concern for the influencer marketing space, here we dissect its impact on collaborations and initiate a dialogue on the matter.

With a diverse set of points of view from creators, representatives from creator networks, agencies, and ASCI, we analyze the current state of the guidelines, room for improvement, its need, and how the influencer marketing industry perceives it.

The Speakers

  • Angad Bhatia, Founder – MensXP & CEO - Indiatimes Lifestyle Network
  • Gunjan Arya, Chief Executive Officer, Only Much Louder

The Guidelines

Manisha Kapoor, General Secretary, ASCI shares a brief context on the need for these guidelines and why it was essential for them to be drafted. She says that ASCI is a self-regulatory body, it is not the Government Of India but works closely with the government.

The body essentially promotes fairness and honesty in advertising and crafts guidelines for what advertisements should or should not do.

As the brands are seeking to engage with the digital audience in new and different ways by collaborating with influencers and creators, if the messaging involves commercial elements, the audience would want to know.

If a friend tells you about a product they love, you receive it in a different way, as opposed if you were to figure out this friend is in a partnership with the brand offering that product.

"As a consumer, you have the right to know that what you're listening or viewing is a commercial message, that is at the heart of the guidelines. What we're doing is just asking influencers to declare and disclose that certain messages that they are putting up are commercial messages".

The Concerns

While all of the speakers agree that the guidelines will play a significant role and are being welcomed by them, a few of them also raise a few concerns.

Unmisha Bhatt, Chief Strategy Officer, Tonic Worldwide mentions the guidelines are important and right now most of the process will be waiting, and watching how it turns out. She adds that along with the message being promotional, the creator is trying to entertain the audience and working to not make it look like an ad, if the first line of the content says it is an ad, it would harm the engagement since we are all attuned to skip an ad.

Viraj Sheth, Co-founder, Monk Entertainment believes the digital audiences know an ad when they see one. He mentions several brands had the mandate to declare partnerships but a lot of Indian brands were not okay with it.

He is not very keen on labels on the video or a static image itself, because that kills the engagement and the design has to be minimal.

Angad Bhatia, Founder – MensXP & CEO - Indiatimes Lifestyle Network shares any evolving industry starts with self-regulation the guidelines are a way for the industry to validate itself, and he finds self-regulation to be more viable than the government being involved.

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He points out that the deadline issued may be a matter of concern for a few platforms, and nuts and bolts around the subject need to be acknowledged.

Gunjan Arya, Chief Executive Officer, Only Much Louder reckons that having a guideline or framework makes it easier for brands and creators. She observed higher traction on posts with disclosure and found consumers appreciating the honesty.

Dolly Singh, Content Creator mentions as an audience it is great when we know that a post is in a paid partnership through caption and labels. As a content creator, she says it will require additional efforts to not overwhelm the followers.

She adds, she anyway makes sure that the ads do not look like an ad but she is taking this as a challenge to unlock a new level of creation. "It'll become harder than it usually is".

Damandep Singh Soni, Vice president - Growth, boAt, shares the organic reach of the post may decrease, and the smaller influencers are still figuring it out. He also raises a question on what would be defined as an ad, as sometimes the influencers are paid or are offered gifts.

At the outset, the rules will benefit all three parties involved, brands, agencies, and creators as it will weed out the bad actors, the role of the regulator is to ensure fair play in the market.

Pranav Sapra shares it is going to have an impact for sure, and it will continue to be a challenge because when you look at an ad, you want to skip it or move on to the next post or channel. He finds the guidelines to be a bit in the overdoing note.

The Impact

Bhatt shares the one party that is surely going to benefit from this is the social media platforms, as when the organic reach decreases, media spends increase.

She also adds that the guidelines will also add authenticity to paid promotions when influencers will use the products they promote, and efficacy will increase.

Sheth mentions the agency takes care of the logistics and backend work to let the creator focus on the creation, but he will put the onus on the creator to at least try out the products but will have a legal team backing them.

Bhatia says the role of the agency will become more important, to manage efficacy and claims. He also points out a few discrepancies that leave out people recommending products on a one-on-one basis on closed platforms.

Arya shares brands and creators will need to find a common objective as to why they're doing this partnership, for it to work at its best capability.

Soni reckons budget allocations would change a bit and the operational side will need to be figured out.

The Enforcement

Kapoor states that the labels would not be an obtrusion, the idea is to collaborate and the guidelines are open for feedback to understand concerns and balance consumer interest. The approach would mature as the industry matures, and the guidelines will be fine-tuned.

She adds complaints will be adjudicated and if an ad is found to be in violation of the current guidelines, ASCI would request either ad(s) be modified or removed. The advertiser and the influencer both would be written to, to hear their side, and the judgment will be passed by a panel of judges.

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