influencer ad rules: ASCI influencer marketing rules may impact ad spending temporarily

New Delhi/Mumbai: Ad spending in influencer marketing have been soaring on social media platforms such as Instagram and YouTube. However, with the
new draft guidelines from the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) calling for clearer disclosures on paid partnerships, both influencers and marketers are finding themselves at crossroads.

Marketers expect a marginal drop in influencer ad spends as a result of the ASCI guidelines coming into force but said things may not change drastically.

“Spends may get impacted temporarily by about 10-15%,” said Praanesh Bhuvaneswar, founder and CEO of influencer marketing platform Qoruz. “There are certain brands that do surrogate marketing without revealing it’s an ad. That happens with immature brands or those trying to push fake content. But people will mature beyond that after the guidelines and spending will go up again.”

He said spends have been going up significantly as producing content with agencies and then putting ad budgets to promote it doesn’t seem so appealing to a lot of brands, and instead they prefer getting the desired reach and content from influencers at a fraction of the cost. “Quite a lot of mainstream agencies are also setting up influencer strategy and execution teams in house,” Bhuvaneswar said.

Amit Tripathi, managing director of independent digital-first agency IdeateLabs, said the guidelines will impact monetisation that influencers can make from their digital footprint.

“Can you imagine Amitabh Bachchan or Shahrukh Khan acknowledging that this is a sponsored post?” he said. “They endorse brands just as others do. But now with these guidelines, small or big, everyone will have to acknowledge the commercial side to the influencer clout. Hence, while this is great news from a consumer point of view, but not so much from an influencer point.”

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ASCI released draft guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media on Monday, calling for more upfront disclosures on paid collaborations by influencers besides issuing ‘ready reckoners’ for social media platforms.

The body said it has created the guidelines so that advertisements on digital media are honest and don’t violate ASCI’s chapter one on misleading advertisements. It has invited stakeholder feedback on the guidelines till March 8.

Facebook and Instagram declined to comment on the matter. YouTube did not respond to an email seeking comments as of press time Tuesday.

Viraj Sheth, cofounder and CEO of influencer marketing firm Monk Entertainment, said the ASCI guidelines will not bring about a drastic change in spends on influencer marketing and the strategies may not change too much. “The audiences have always been smart enough to differentiate between an organic piece of content and a paid partnership with a brand,” he said. “These guidelines will only push for this differentiation to be made more official and binding.”

Anuja Deora Sanctis, founder and CEO of Filter Coffee, which handles influencer marketing for brands such as Clinique India, and L’Oréal Professional, said using organic influencers will now be a priority for brands and also a challenge because filtering out organic influencers to gain decent traction and reaching out to a more aware audience will become tedious but ever impactful.

Influencer Sanjyot Keer, chef and founder of YouTube channel Your Food Lab that has about 1.94 million subscribers, said even before ASCI draft guidelines, major platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and YouTube already had norms in place to identify branded content, so the announcement does not change the labelling process of branded content as such.

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“There are ‘paid partnership’, ‘branded content’ and ‘includes paid promotion’ tags on the platforms, respectively,” he said. “We use these tags whenever we are running a branded content campaign… If on other platforms such a system is not in place, the platforms should be advised to do so to regulate the usage of the tags/labels and not the content creator. Different rules for different content types and platforms would be very difficult to follow and even difficult to regulate.”


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