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How ASCI plans to make influencer marketing in India more transparent and responsible

Influencer marketing is set to change

In a rollout that could have a far-reaching impact on marketing in India, The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) unveiled a comprehensive set of guidelines around influencer advertising on digital media. The new set of guidelines hope to bring much-needed transparency to the increasingly prolific influencer marketing.

With the increased power that the influencers are exhibiting in impacting consumer behaviour in many categories, the consumers need to be informed of what content has been paid for by brands. Consumers today not only buy products and services endorsed by influencers, but they also buy into the brand stories they create. Never has it been more critical to bring out the difference between content and promotional ads, as it has become now with digital media becoming ubiquitous and omnipresent. Subhash Kamath, chairman of ASCI says: “After extensive discussions, we are now launching the final guidelines that balance the interests of consumers, influencers, agencies, advertisers and all other stakeholders.”

Decoding the new guidelines

  • While the guidelines for traditional media advertising are in place but with the boom in influencer marketing, it is critical to creating the framework for them as well.
  • These guidelines are meant to safeguard the various stakeholders of the user ecosystem - consumers, influencers, marketers, and the advertising industry.
  • Very importantly, the guidelines make it mandatory for influencers to label the promotional content they post.
  • The guidelines will apply to commercial messages or advertisements published on or after June 14, 2021.

How will ASCI monitor potential violations of these guidelines

  • To monitor potential violations and also timely capture of rules being flouted, ASCI has identified a French technology provider, Reech.
  • Their product Reech Influence Cloud is an Influence Cloud platform that uses Artificial Intelligence to identify lack of disclosure on posts of a commercial nature on social media.

Enhancing the narrative of influencer advertising

  • In addition to the guidelines, ASCI plans to create a repository and has launched 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. The idea is to educate and help shape the narrative of influencer advertising.

Expert speak: Manisha Kapoor, secretary-general of ASCI holds forth on what the new set of guidelines would mean to the marketer ecosystem

For brands and advertising campaigns:

  • Influencer advertising is becoming the storytelling tool for many brands and categories. Even as it increases in its importance, creative freedom will need to be used while being based on a foundation of transparency and responsibility.
  • Once a piece of communication meets the criteria and is identified as an advertisement, the guidelines and laws applicable to advertising would come into play. Thus, brands have to ensure that the communication being put out meets the standards of ethics prescribed under various regulations and guidelines.

For influencers:

  • The influencer community which has so far been quite unregulated will be coming together in the form of industry, for the first time.
  • While it would give an impetus to more organised structures within the industry, it would also help make an impact on the relative power equations between them and advertisers.

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