Explained: ASCI’s Draft Rules for Influencers Promoting Brands

Mehab Qureshi
·5-min read

In a bid to enable consumers to easily recognise advertising content on digital platforms, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) on Monday, 22 February laid out draft guidelines for influencer advertising across digital platforms.

The draft guidelines aim to ensure that influencers disclose whether a content published is promotional or not.

Influencers and industry experts came together to create these fresh guidelines which will be issued by 31 March 2021, once digital media stakeholders weigh in by 8 March.

Here’s a look at what the proposed rules are how it will impact influencers.

Is There A Need for Regulation?

According to digital marketing agency AdLift, India’s influencer market is estimated at $75-$150 million a year as compared to the global market of $1.75 billion. This is an industry that has become mainstream , and is only expected to grow as more Indians go online.

After closely following the changing marketing paradigm on digital platforms, ASCI associated with TAM Media Research monitored thousands of digital media platforms and concluded that “more than 3,000 digital platforms have misleading marketing messages” in their content.

“Keeping in mind the growing consumption of digital advertising, the influencer guidelines were the need of the hour,” said ASCI Chairman Kamath.

Sharing her thoughts on the need of the proposed guidelines, Manisha Kapoor, Secretary General, ASCI told The Quint, “ We thought this was a good time to look at the way on how this spectrum needs to be regulated because lines between advertising and content is now blurring on social media platforms”.

Kapoor explained,”When you watch TV or read a news paper you clearly can differentiate between advertisements and content. However, in digital media, there is no definite way of knowing who is the advertiser, and whether the influencer has received any monetary fee or whether the content organically generated. So, these few questions have risen as a result of digital media becoming mainstream now. Therefore, we decided to implement these guidelines now”.

What Do The Draft Guidelines Say?

ASCI has laid out the below listed guidelines for influencers:

  • Advertisements should be made in such a way that it is easily distinguishable from editorial and independent user-generated content, to prevent the audience from being confused between the two.

  • Disclosure labels such as '#ad', '#collab', '#promo', '#sponsored', '#partnership' have to be used when an influencer publishes content for a brand.

  • Disclosure labels should be in English or can be translated into the language that is understood by the average consumer.

  • The disclosure labels should be superimposed over the post published on digital platforms and it should be ensured that the average consumer is able to see it clearly.

  • Filters should not be applied to promotions on social media if they exaggerate the brand’s claim.

What Are the Specific Rules for Social Media Platforms?

1. For 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. For 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.

3. For Twitter: Include the disclosure label or tag at the beginning of the body of the message as a tag.

4. For Pinterest: Include the disclosure label at the beginning of the message.

5. For YouTube and other video platforms: Include the label in the title/description of the post.

6. For Vlog: Overlay the disclosure label while talking about the product or service

7. For Snapchat: Include the disclosure label in the body of the message in the beginning as a tag.

8. For Blog: Include the disclosure label in the title of the post.

How Will It Impact Influencers?

Kapoor believes that these guidelines will aid in promoting transparency and trust between the audience and influencers.

“For influencers who are here for long run and want to genuinely build their audiences, this is a good opportunity as this will ensure that an influencer acts with responsibility. The response to this feedback has been extremely encouraging,” she told The Quint.

Fashion blogger Anita Das, said, “Brands want influencers to promote their products and at the same time they demand that it should not look like it is an advertisement, and this is a form of their marketing strategy. Also when we do not use any disclosures it makes us connect with the audience even better, because the moment we display such disclosures, the audience loses interest.”

Influencers are now to do their due diligence about any technical or performance claims made by them such as 3 times better, results expected to last a year, fastest speed, etc – a proposal that is expected to boost the credibility of both the brand and the influencer promoting it.

Influencer Amin Jazayeri thinks it’s a move in the right direction. “This is standard practice in countries like the US where influencers are required to use '#ad' in promotional posts. This prevents content from being misleading. The audience should know the difference between a paid promotion and a genuine endorsement of a product/service”.

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