Hey there, trendsetters and digital explorers! We’ve got some exciting news brewing in the world of influencer marketing that’s about to flip the game on its head. According to the – “The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI)“, they have recently introduced a whole bunch of new guidelines for the rockstars of the digital age, for Influencer marketing. Yep, you heard that right – it’s time for some rulebook rewiring, and the influencer game is in for a makeover that’s as fresh as a morning breeze.

The definition of celebrities has now broadened to include individuals with over 500,000 social media followers. This change comes in response to an astonishing 800% increase in violations of rules by influencers and celebrities on social media and advertising platforms. Despite their legal obligations, numerous renowned figures persist in participating in ads containing misleading information.

Manisha Kapoor, the CEO and secretary general of ASCI, underscores that the transformation of the celebrity definition has occurred in a team with the rise of social media influencers. These creators of content have amassed substantial followings over time, prompting the council to revise its guidelines to encompass them.

As per the updated directives, ‘celebrities’ are obligated to express their authentic opinions about products, rooted in their own comprehension or personal experiences with the promoted item. Moreover, these prominent personalities must thoroughly validate the claims presented in the advertisements before extending their endorsement.

Influencer marketing - Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI)

Credits: Afaqs!

Also Read: International Youth Day Exclusive: CEO Of Yuvaa, Kevin Lee, Speaks About The “Yuvaa” Of Today

Kiran Ramamurthy, COO, Media.Monks India, comments, “The influencer space has been largely unregulated and we have seen cases of how damaging any kind of misrepresentation can be. The financial influencer community has had cases that have raised the hackles of financial regulatory bodies.

The updated ASCI code now categorizes individuals as people who either make Rs 40 lakh or an equivalent amount each year for starring in ads on any platform or have more than 500,000 followers on a social media account. This broadens the criteria from before, which only focused on individuals earning Rs 20 lakh from endorsements.

Influencers are just monetising their credibility and have little to lose. But the consumer whose trust the influencer has monetised, can pay dearly. Kiran Ramamurthy, COO, Media.Monks India

Kalyan Kumar, the CEO of KlugKlug, highlights that it’s unrealistic to expect influencers to authenticate the genuineness of brands. He believes that the responsibility should rest with government bodies, ASCI, regulators, FSSAI, and other authorities that permit brands to market their products. He adds that influencers might lack the ability to effectively verify product claims.

With the requirement that celebrities have a social media following of 500,000 or more on a single platform, how will this condition influence the range of endorsements that fall under these new guidelines?

Kunal Kishore, co-founder and COO of ClanConnect suggests that the guidelines will wield a substantial influence on celebrity endorsements. The extended reach of these guidelines could guarantee that influencer content adheres to the same standards and responsibilities as endorsements by traditional celebrities.

The expansion of the ‘celebrity’ definition is likely to broaden the array of individuals involved in celebrity endorsements, including influencers from diverse domains such as business, food and beverages, finance, and even social media. The updated guidelines broaden the ‘celebrity’ scope to encompass prominent figures like medical professionals, authors, activists, and educators.

This could potentially bring a fresh perspective to advertising and create new opportunities for brands to connect with their target audience through endorsements by these non-traditional celebrities,” Divyansh Gala, group head – outreach, SoCheers, says.

The group of influencers has expanded noticeably, particularly on platforms like Instagram, which has approximately 35,000 influencers having more than 50,000 followers. Nevertheless, this figure decreases significantly to only a few thousand when the follower count surpasses 500,000.

Given that a majority of brands look for influencers in the 50,000-plus follower bracket, these guidelines will still not cover almost 95% of the influencers. The impact of these guidelines will be for larger brands with deeper pockets,” says Ramamurthy, COO, of Media.Monks India

In light of these guidelines, what will now be the roles and responsibilities of social media influencers?

Gala from SoCheers suggests that this change will amplify the duties of brands, influencers, and celebrities. Celebrity endorsements wield considerable influence, as people usually accept their statements without question. However, if ads contain dishonest or untrue assertions, this trust may waver.

He explains that ASCI’s attention to claims and endorsements by celebrities will empower them to make well-informed decisions about the products they align with. Brands will need to substantiate their assertions with provable proof.

Hitarth Dadia, Partner, NOFILTR.GROUP, opines that the requirement might not bring about significant changes. “If a substantial number of people decide someone is significant, that person becomes a celebrity – it’s just another label,” he says. “This change won’t bring about a substantial difference. Many creators have already experienced the weight of fame, receiving recognition in public, similar to traditional celebrities. This development acknowledges something that has been evolving for a while,” he adds.

Agents or managers of celebrities will now need to give ASCI a signed confirmation, verifying that they have conducted a proper investigation into the claims and statements made in the ad.

The guidelines also caution against endorsing items, treatments, or cures that are not allowed to be advertised as per the regulations of the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) rules and the Drugs and Cosmetic Act 1940, and its related regulations.

Furthermore, celebrities must avoid participating in advertisements for products that are legally obligated to include health warnings like “… is injurious to health” on their packaging or promotional materials.

Will influencer marketing agencies have to spend on educating creators who’ve now become celebrities, thanks to ASCI’s new guidelines?

Kumar from KlugKlugs is a bit unsure about how the change will play out in real life. He thinks that there are products from big brands and new startups that can easily trick anyone.

Expecting influencers to validate brand authenticity is impractical” Kalyan Kumar, CEO of KlugKlug

Earlier this year, the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) also rolled out rules concerning influencer endorsements. The CCPA holds the power to impose fines of up to Rs 10 lakh on manufacturers, advertisers, and endorsers. For repeated violations, the penalty can rise to Rs 50 lakh.

The CCPA is also authorized to bar endorsers of deceptive ads from promoting any product for one year for first-time offenses and up to three years for subsequent breaches. ASCI states that a dedicated guideline for celebrities requires ads featuring them to align with its code. Celebrities are also expected to grasp and embody the essence of this code.

The guidelines stress that celebrities must carry out thorough research to ensure the verifiability and substantiation of claims in ads. If needed, celebrities should provide evidence of this diligent research.

In the ever-evolving world of influencer marketing, ASCI’s new guidelines promise a refreshing breeze of transparency and accountability. As brands, celebrities, and influencers unite under these revamped rules, we step into a future where authenticity reigns and consumer trust shines brighter than ever.