Influencer Advertising guidelines issued by ASCI will be applicable to commercial messages or advertisements published on or after June 14, 2021. The guidelines make it mandatory for influencers to label the promotional content they post.
The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) today unveiled the final guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media. The draft guidelines initially were issued in February and feedback from all stakeholders – advertisers, agencies, influencers, and consumers – was sought. To ensure a collaborative process and expert inputs, ASCI tied up with Big Bang Social, a leading marketplace for social storytelling, to get India’s leading digital influencers’ views on board. The guidelines will be applicable to commercial messages or advertisements published on or after June 14, 2021. The guidelines make it mandatory for influencers to label the promotional content they post.
When the draft guidelines were shared, they sparked vigorous conversations within the influencer community and among other stakeholders. We received feedback from more than 25 different stakeholders over two months, some of them included industry associations like IAMAI, IBHA, advertisers like PepsiCo, P&G, Nestle, HUL, Tata, Star, we also received comments from voluntary consumer organizations. Dolly Singh, Vishnu Kaushal, Ayesha Billimoria, Aanam C, Scherezade Shroff Talwar aka Sherry Shroff, Raghav Meattle, Varun Duggirala, and more. ASCI took note of all feedback, concerns, and suggestions to arrive at the final guidelines.
Below are the key takeaways from the guidelines:
- Advertisements must be obviously distinguishable by average consumers through an approved disclosure label. Blanket disclosures in a profile/bio/about section will not be considered
- The Disclosure Label must be upfront, prominent, channel appropriate & suitable for all devices. It must be in English or translated into the language of the ad
- If the advertisement is only a picture post such as Stories, the label needs to be superimposed over the picture
- For videos not accompanied by a text post, the disclosure label should be superimposed in a manner that is easily visible. In the case of audio, it must be clearly announced at the beginning & end
- Filters should not be applied to ads to exaggerate the claim/appearance of a product. The influencer must do their due diligence about any technical or performance claims such as 'effect lasts for 1 month'
Subhash Kamath, Chairman, ASCI, said: “We received an overwhelming positive engagement and feedback from influencers and others for the draft guidelines, as well as suggestions to finetune and clarify some points. After extensive discussions, we are now launching the final guidelines that balance the interests of consumers, influencers, agencies, advertisers, and all other stakeholders. I urge everyone to follow the ASCI Code and the guidelines and be part of this change promising transparency and responsibility.”
One of the key questions raised was how ASCI would monitor potential violations of these guidelines. For this, ASCI has identified a French technology provider, Reech.
Manisha Kapoor, Secretary-General, ASCI said “The Reech Influence Cloud platform uses Artificial Intelligence to identify lack of disclosure on posts of a commercial nature on social media. Machine learning algorithms and pattern searching Regex (Regular Expression) maximize accuracy. As part of ASCI’s increasing focus on digital content, we will continue to deploy advanced technology solutions to keep track of advertisements that violate the ASCI code.
Along with the guidelines, ASCI is aiming to develop an inclusive educational approach to shape the narrative of influencer advertising. To achieve this, ASCI is launching the ASCI. Social platform, a one-stop destination for all information related to the guidelines themselves. The digital platform will be interactive with dos and don'ts, FAQs, information related to the guidelines, etc. Over time, ASCI. Social hopes to create a community of social media influencers, consumers, advertisers, and talent management agencies.
Dhruv Chitgopekar, Founding Partner, Collective Artists Network, and CEO of BigBang.Social said: “The guidelines were the need of the hour considering the rapid growth in branded communications to consumers via social media. We have guidelines for traditional media advertising but, with the boom in influencer marketing, these are essential. We got on board on ASCI’s behest, lending our learnings from extensively working with social media influencers and understanding of brands to the effort. I’m pleased with how comprehensive and practical the final guidelines are.
Dolly Singh, who is among India’s leading digital influencers, said: “The digital marketing space is growing rapidly and so are its participants. This is the right time to have a codified system of disclosure. I fully support this move by ASCI because it will result in viewers having even greater trust in influencers like me.”