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The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) set up brand new guidelines for Influencers to clear the blurred lines between an advertisement and content. Nowadays, consumers are relying heavily on influencers for getting feedback on any product, which can be misleading to them. They don’t realise whether it’s genuine or done for commercial purposes. According to ASCI, “Consumers may view promotional messages without realising the commercial intent of these, and that becomes inherently misleading, and in violation of clause 1.4 (misleading by omission) and 1.5 (abuse trust of consumers or exploit their lack of experience or knowledge).

Now, let’s get to know the terms updated by ASCI concerning the current scenario:

  • Influencer

An Influencer is someone who has access to an audience and the power to affect their audiences’ purchasing decisions or opinions about a product, service, brand or experience, because of the influencer’s authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with their audience.”

  • Virtual Influencer

Virtual influencers, are fictional computer generated ‘people’ or avatars who have the realistic characteristics, features and personalities of humans, and behave in a similar manner as influencers.”

  • Material Connection

A material connection is any connection between an advertiser and influencer that may affect the weight or credibility of the representation made by the influencer. Material connection could include but is not limited to benefits and incentives, such as monetary or other compensation, free products with or without any conditions attached including those received unsolicited, discounts, gifts, contest and sweepstakes entries, trips or hotel stays, media barters, coverage, awards or any family or employment relationship, etc.”

As stated by ASCI, “With great influence, comes great responsibility.” That’s why they have set up the guidelines for influencers. The first point states “All advertisements published by social media influencers or their representatives, on such influencers’ accounts must carry a disclosure label that clearly identifies it as an advertisement.” According to this guideline, if there’s any kind of material connection between advertiser and influencer, then disclosure is necessary. Even if there isn’t any monetary compensation, but the influencer is provided with some perks, free products, or discounts, then it needs to have the disclosure label.  Also, if the content is created originally by the influencer without any material connection, then it’s not considered an advertisement. So, disclosure doesn’t need to be applied. But if there’s a bit of material connection, then even if the evaluation is unbiased or originally created, it has to have the disclosure tag.

ASCI states, “Disclosure must be upfront and prominent so that it is not missed by an average consumer.” Thus, they have pointed out that it should be placed in a manner that’s hard to miss. Also, avoid any area that requires a person to click more such as about me, profile page, bios, end of any post or content. It shouldn’t be hidden away within a bunch of hashtags or links. Additionally, they prefer a platform’s disclosure tool to be implemented along with the influencer’s own disclosure. Also, “Disclosure must be of the video upfront and prominent so that it is not missed by an average consumer.” Whether it’s any picture, video, live stream, or audio, the necessary disclosure label is to be made for a certain limit of time. In regards to “The disclosure must be made in a manner that is well understood by an average consumer”, the tags used can be of advertisement, ad, sponsored, collaboration, partnership, employee, and free gift. It can be done in any language but it should be understandable to an average consumer. If there’s a use of virtual influencers, it should be properly disclosed that the consumer isn’t interacting with a real human being.  The responsibility falls upon the advertiser.

The second point of ASCI guidelines is in regards to due diligence states, “The influencers are advised to review and satisfy themselves that the advertiser is in a position to substantiate the claims made in the advertisement.”

The ASCI community consists of Scherezade Shroff, Anto Philip, Ankita Chawla, Subhash Kamath, Manisha Kapoor, Dhruv Chitgopekar, Mansi Jain, Sameer Satpathy, Priyanka Khimani, Sujata Assomull, Ankita Bansal, Raghav Meattle, Aakash Malhotra, Akshaye Rathi, Harpreet Suri, and Ayesha Billimoria.

Here’s Scherezade Shroff’s view on the importance of influencer guidelines.

Anto Philip, Co-founder of Under 25 speaks on youth’s responsibility towards advertising.

Check out Ankita Chawla explaining responsible content!

 Fashion Journalist and author, Sujata Assomull shares her opinion on the influencer guidelines.

Chairman of ASCI, Subhash Kamath talks about responsible advertising in digital media.

Sameer Satpathy, Divisional Chief Executive of ITC expresses the brand’s perspective towards the influencer guidelines.

Singer and songwriter Raghav Seattle puts out his views on influencer guidelines.

Ankita Bansal, Co-founder of THERE talks about responsible content.

Mansi Jain, Vice President of Glance, expresses the importance of authentic and responsible advertising.

Aakash Malhotra a.k.a WanderWithSky, travel content creator and entrepreneur explains his take on influencer guidelines.

Akshaye Rathi, Director of Aashirwad Theatre Pvt Ltd talks about influencer marketing with respect to the influencer guidelines.

Harpreet Suri, the known mom blogger expresses her views about responsibility in branded content.

CEO and Co-founder of Big Bang.Social and Collective Artists Network, Dhruv Chitgopekar breaks down influencer marketing in regards to the guidelines.

Manisha Kapoor, Secretary-General of ASCI India, talks about responsible and transparent influencer guidelines for brands and advertising.

Chairperson of Women in Music India and entertainment lawyer, Priyanka Khimani talks about the importance of creators regarding socially responsible content.  

Ayesha Billimoria a.k.a fitgirl talks about the responsibility of influencers.

So, these were the important guidelines and some talk by the ASCI community leading us towards a better and responsible generation.