The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has released draft guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media in order to enable consumers to recognize promotional content on digital platforms. The guidelines for influencers advertising on digital media will be available to all stakeholders, including industry, digital influencers as well as consumers for feedback till March 8, 2021. Based on public feedback, the final guidelines will be issued by ASCI by 31 March 2021. The new norms will be applicable to all promotional posts published on or after 15 April 2021.

As per ASCI’s Trust in Advertising Report, released last December, the viewership of ads on digital platforms is almost the same in rural (82%) as well as urabn (83%) areas. In the wake of growing consumption of digital advertising, disclosure guidelines for influencers became essential.

Image result for subhash kamath
Subhash Kamath, Chairman, ASCI

Speaking about the guidelines, Subhash Kamath, Chairman, ASCI, said, “The digital space is vast. However, promotional content is often indistinguishable from regular posts. Consumers have the right to easily recognise promotional content. The guidelines will help consumers identify promotional content and also guide digital influencers. We look forward to feedback from industry stakeholders, including more influencers, which would help us make the digital space more responsible for all.”

Taking about the benefits of these guidelines, Dhruv Chitgopekar, Founding Partner, KWAN, and CEO, BigBang.Social, said, “We realised the need for a responsible advertising ecosystem in place for influencers; promoting ethical practices, fair and transparent expression. These guidelines will benefit consumers and the digital influencers. We firmly believe it is essential for digital advertising platforms too. We are delighted to partner with a self-regulatory body that wants to be inclusive of all stakeholders.”

Draft Guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media: 

1) Advertisements must be obviously distinguishable by the average consumer from editorial and independent user-generated content, to prevent the audience from being confused between the two. Therefore, a disclosure label must be added from the list of approved labels. Only permitted disclosure labels will be regarded as adequate as consumers may not be familiar with various creative ways in which advertisers and influencers may wish to convey that the said communication is an advertisement. Examples of such advertisements could be paid music promotion in a video, promoting a store or a brand through a post on the influencers media handle

Advertisements must be
obviously distinguishable by the average consumer from editorial and independent user-generated content, to prevent the audience from being confused between the two. Therefore, a disclosure label must be added from the list of approved labels.

2) The disclosure label used to highlight advertising content needs to be upfront (within the first two lines of any given platform, such that a consumer need not click on see more or have to scroll under the fold), prominent (so people don’t miss it), appropriate for the channel (what can you see and when) and suitable for all potential devices (it needs to be visible regardless of the device used, or platform such as website or app etc.).

3) The disclosure label must be in English or translated into the language of the advertisement in a way that it is well understood by the average consumer who is viewing the advertisement.

4) Blanket disclosures in a profile/bio/about section will not be considered adequate because people visiting the site might read individual reviews or watch individual videos without seeing the disclosure on another page 

5) If the advertisement is only a picture post such as Instagram stories or Snapchat, the label needs to be superimposed over the picture and it should be ensured that the average consumer is able to see it clearly. 

6) In the case of video not accompanied by a text post, the disclosure label should be superimposed on the video in a manner that is easily visible to the viewer. For videos that last 15 seconds or lesser, the disclosure label must stay for a minimum of 2 seconds. For videos longer than 15 seconds, but less than 2 minutes, the disclosure label stays for 1/3rd the length of the video. For videos which are 2 minutes or longer, the disclosure label must stay for the entire duration of the section in which the promoted brand or its features, benefits etc are mentioned. In live streams, the disclosure label should be placed periodically, for 5 seconds at the end of every minute so that users who see part of the stream can see the disclosure.

In the case of video not
accompanied
by a text post, the disclosure label should be superimposed on the video in a manner that is easily visible to the viewer. For videos that last 15 seconds or lesser, the disclosure label must stay for a minimum of 2 seconds. For videos longer than 15 seconds, but less than 2 minutes, the disclosure label stays for 1/3rd the length of the video.

7) In the case of audio media, the disclosure label must be clearly announced at the beginning and at the end of the audio.

8) Filters should not be applied to social media advertisements if they exaggerate the effect of the claim that the brand is making- eg. makes hair shinier, teeth whiter etc.

9) The influencer must do their due diligence about any technical or performance claims made by them such as 2X better, effect lasts for 1 month, fastest speed, best in class etc. Evidence of due diligence would include correspondence with the advertiser or brand owner confirming that the specific claim made in the advertisement is capable of scientific substantiation.

10) It is recommended that the contractual agreement between advertiser and influencer carries clauses pertaining to disclosure, use of filters as well as due diligence.

Ready Reckoner for Social Media Platforms:

  1. Instagram: Disclosure label to be included in the title above the photo/beginning of the text that shows. If only the image is seen, the image itself must include the label.
  2. Facebook: Include the disclosure label in the title of the entry or post. If only the image/video is seen, the image/video itself must include the label eg FB story.
  3. Twitter: Include the disclosure label or tag at the beginning of the body of the message as a tag.
  4. Pinterest: Include the disclosure label at the beginning of the message.
  5. YouTube and other video platforms: Include the label in the title / description of the post.
  6. Vlog: Overlay the disclosure label while talking about the product or service.
  7. Snapchat: Include the disclosure label in the body of the message in the beginning as a tag.
  8. Blog: Include the disclosure label in the title of the post.