Influencer marketing should be regulated in India. The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), the industry association that regulates advertising communications, has developed a set of guidelines for influencer marketing on digital media platforms. The guidelines will come into force in late March after consultation with industry stakeholders.
Influencer marketing is booming in India on social media platforms and is valued at $ 75 million to $ 100 million, according to AdLift, a digital marketing agency. “Brands spend 10-15% of their digital media spend on influencer marketing. The market is now growing 40-70% year over year, ”says Prashant Puri, CEO and founder of AdLift.
The categories of brands hiring advocates have also grown. “Influencers are no longer limited to the categories of beauty, food or travel. We work with influencers for products like paints, laminates, etc., ”explains Ankita Chauhan, group leader, strategy at Tonic Worldwide.
The concern with influencer marketing is that the lines between advertising and content are blurring on digital platforms. “Consumers cannot distinguish between what is being paid for a paid brand communication and a simple social media post.
As this form of marketing is important, it is important for ASCI to protect the interests of consumers and educate stakeholders about best practices in the industry, ”said Subhash Kamath, chairman of ASCI.
According to ASCI, influencers need to use tags like #ad or #collab and add labels to posts and videos to reveal in advance that a post is an advertisement. ASCI transfers responsibility for disclosure to the influencer and advertiser whose brand the advertisement is for.
To bring influencer marketing into ASCI’s realm, the regulator needs to augment its monitoring team to handle complaints and look for violations. According to Kamath, ASCI is taking several steps to reduce the time it takes to review complaints, including frequent meetings of the Consumer Complaints Council and automating the review process.
The nature of social media is such that anyone can aspire to become an influencer or attorney in their specialty. The market is big and diverse. Kareena Kapoor with 6.1 million followers and a beauty blogger with 10,000 followers on Instagram are both “influencers” who deal with brands like Ariel or a small company that sells hand-woven clothing. “Big brands and influencers with a large following are more accountable to consumers than smaller ones,” says Manika Juneja, EVP Operations, WATConsult. This means that while large corporations or celebrities can responsibly regulate themselves, it could be a difficult task for ASCI to enforce their policies for micro or nano influencers and SMEs.
In addition, there are countless platforms on which influencers publish content. YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and a whole host of short video platforms and OTT platforms contain user-generated content that can be paid for. “Of these, the majority of influencer marketing posts are shared on Instagram and YouTube,” notes Sagar Pushp, co-founder of ClanConnect.
Of these two platforms, Instagram is the only one that offers a dedicated branded content tool. This allows creators to reveal when a post is a paid partnership, and advertisers can track the performance of branded content campaigns. Other platforms do not yet have such an option and place an obligation to fully explain a paid commitment to the influencer or brand while making their posts. The catch with a branded content tool like Instagram’s, however, is that “Posts marked as ‘paid partnerships’ get less engagement than organic posts,” says Juneja. Furthermore, she adds that the lack of a penalty for violations combined with countless influencers large and small makes regulating the market difficult for the industry association.
Also Read: Will ASCI’s Draft Policy Adversely Affect an Influencer’s Influence?
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