The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has revised its guidelines for influencer advertising that were first introduced in May 2021. This update has placed more responsibility on finance and health influencers for brand endorsements.

Responding to market concerns, ASCI has decreed that finance influencers, also known as ‘finfluencers’, who operate within the BFSI realm, can offer investment-related advise only if they are registered with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). Additionally, for other financial advise, they must possess appropriate credentials and qualifications: they must be a chartered accountant, hold a company secretaryship, obtain a license from Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI), etc. These guidelines also expect finfluencers to adhere to all disclosure prerequisites that have been specified by financial sector regulators.

Similarly, ASCI’s guidelines state that health and nutrition influencers who endorse relevant products must hold  relevant qualifications for the same. These include certification or medical degrees in nutrition, dietetics, nursing, physiotherapy, psychology, etc, depending on the nature of the advise they provide.

As per ASCI’s note, influencers must disclose their qualifications and registration/certification details prominently in all types of promotional material:

  • Superimposed on the visuals prominently and upfront, or mentioned as the opening remark in videos.
  • For blogs or any text-based posts, they should be stated upfront before the consumer has to read the post.
  • In the case of podcasts or a purely audio medium, they should be called out at the beginning of the advertising content.

Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary General, ASCI, stated: “As losses to consumers could be  substantial and serious due to improper advice in the categories of health and finance, it is  necessary that influencers in these two critical categories are qualified to provide advice and  that these qualifications are stated upfront, whenever they put out such advertising posts. A  “one size fits all” approach can be dangerous in these areas and consumers should only follow  the advice of qualified experts when engaging with brands or products in these categories.  Unlike celebrities whom consumers clearly know the fields they belong to, they may not  necessarily know which influencers have the necessary qualification and expertise to provide  the right advice and also inform them of any associated risks. To safeguard consumers from  the consequences of advice from non-experts, these additional requirements should now be  followed by health and financial influencers”.

The results and repercussions of these new guidelines are two-fold. On one hand, these guidelines will undoubtedly alienate and diminish the creator community in India, alienating influencers who do not meet their required qualifications from brand deals. On the other hand, they are a helpful and much-needed filter to ensure that people, especially diehard followers of influencers, are not led astray by influencers’ messages. This is particularly necessary for the health and finance ecosystem, where even one piece of wrong or misleading information can lead to devastating consequences.