ASCI Publishes Guidelines On Influencer Marketing

31 May, 2021 (Monday)

The advertising regulator Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has released its guidelines for influencer advertising in digital media. ASCI made it mandatory for influencers to label the promotional content they post and the appropriate form of disclosure and due diligence that comes with it, starting from June 14th, 2021.
According to ASCI, "As digital media consumption becomes the norm, the distinction between content and promotional advertisements becomes critical. The marketing landscape is transforming, and influencer marketing has become mainstream. Therefore, consumers have a right to know what content has been paid for by brands and the guidelines intend to bring this transparency to influencer marketing."

The guidelines for Disclosure are such:
Disclosure is required if there is any material connection between the advertiser and the influencer.

Disclosure is required if there is anything of value given to mention or talk about the Advertiser's product or service.
For example: If the Advertiser or its Agents gives free or discounted products or service or other perks and then the influencer mentions one of its products or services, a disclosure is needed even if they weren't specifically asked to talk about that product or service.

If there is no material connection and the influencer is telling people about a product or service they bought and happen to like, that is not considered to be an advertisement and no disclosure is required on such posts.

ASCI also stated that the disclosure must be upfront and prominent so that it is not missed by an average consumer. It should be placed in a manner that is hard to miss. Disclosures are likely to be missed if they appear only on an ABOUT ME or profile page, or bios, at the end of posts or videos, or anywhere that requires a person to click MORE.
Disclosure should not be buried in a group of hashtags or links.
Using a platform's disclosure tool should be considered in addition to an influencer's own disclosure.

The disclosure should be in English OR in the language of the advertisement itself in a way that is easy for an average consumer to understand. A virtual influencer must additionally disclose to consumers that they are not interacting with a real human being. This disclosure must be upfront and prominent. The Advertiser, shall, where needed, call upon the Influencer to delete or edit an advertisement or the disclosure label.
The labels for usage would be:

Ad (content which is sponsored by the brand),

Sponsored (piece of content which is funded by a brand for better awareness),

Collaboration (paid or non-paid form of alliance where influencers are promised valued goods or services in exchange for a certain number of content pieces/posts on the influencer's social media platforms),

Partnership (brands forging strategic alliances with influencers to connect to a new audience and broaden their existing audience),

Employee, and

Free gift (A gift from a brand with no deliverable attached to it, just a simple gift from a brand).

The influencers are advised to review and satisfy themselves that the advertiser is in a position to substantiate the claims made in the advertisement.