Everything brands need to know about influencer advertising rules
Influencer marketing is a growing trend for brand advertising, but it’s not one without controversy. Aside from the headlines about audacious demands and faked followings, brands also need to consider influencer advertising rules when they are setting up partnerships with social media celebrities.
When done correctly influencer relations can be an effective and authentic way of placing your brand in front of a target audience. It works because many more people are likely to take the recommendation of someone they trust than an advert.
Truly authentic user-generated content (UGC) – where someone shares and endorses your products without any intervention from you – is marketing gold. When you spot this happening, you should share it across your communication channels.
However, there is an important legal difference between authentic UGC and influencer marketing activities where you pay or incentivise an Instagrammer, YouTuber or blogger to be part of a promotional campaign.
When is an ad an ad?
The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) and Competitions Marketing Authority (CMA) have guidelines that influencers must use when they are working with brands. These include disclosing the relationship so that followers can clearly distinguish between adverts and genuine endorsements.
Importantly, partnerships governed by these rule aren’t just paid in money. If you send an influencer a product or give them free access to a service in exchange for promotion then this counts too.
The CMA has recently said that responsibility for disclosing ‘paid’ partnerships lies with the brand as well as the influencer. This means brands must be clear about how disclosure should be worded when they are negotiating an influencer partnership.
And they must make sure the ASA and CMA’s guidelines are being followed once the content goes live.
How to disclose influencer advertising
Recent IPSOS research has shown that consumers aren’t always sure when they are looking at an advert in an influencers’ feed or if they are sharing something as a genuine customer.
The placement of the disclosure and its wording play an important role in making this clear and legal.
Using words or short-form disclosures like #gifted, #sp, #spon and even #sponsored in social media posts is not the ASA or CMA’s recommended method of highlighting influencer partnerships. They also want disclosure to be upfront and not buried at the bottom of posts or in long chains of hashtags.
So what is an acceptable form of disclosure? Depending on the exact nature of the relationship, for example, how much control the brand has over the end content, the ASA and CMA recommend: ‘#ad’, ‘Advertisement feature’, or ‘Advertisement promotion’. There is a handy flow chart in their guidelines for influencers.
If someone is scrolling through their social media feed and it isn’t immediately clear that a post is an advert then the influencer and brand responsible for the content could be reported to the ASA and CMA.
If influencer relations is part of your digital marketing plans in the year ahead then make sure you are familiar with influencer advertising rules.