Aditi Chakravarty
Guest Article

Influencing the influencers? Decoding ASCI’s recent recommendations...

Influencers are simply being advised to make it clear that 'ads are ads', right? Our guest author opines.

"My favourite influencer recommended this yesterday! I'm totally gonna buy it next…"

I speak for a lot of you when I say that influencers and opinion leaders have a tremendous impact on the ways we see brands and their products. Although the journey is non-linear, a relatable, popular human face on the gram or the tube affects our purchase decisions - be it at a shopping aisle or on our favourite ecommerce website.

Keeping the growing popularity of new age content creators in the minds of consumers and brands alike, I feel it's a welcome move by the self-regulatory body - ASCI (The Advertising Standards Council of India) - to bring forth few crucial and rather simple draft recommendations to uphold ethical practices and honesty in the way online storytelling moves forward.

Creators work hard on their aesthetic and verbal skills to churn beautifully edited makeup videos, advertorial write-ups and funny Instagram reels, thus driving high association and recall for the brand. But creative liberties can often expose the devil in the details! This is because viewers enjoy the content and believe in all the claims that are being told and sold to them. Certain levels of due diligence on the features and claims will make the creators get more authentic and stay factually correct (and safeguard them from being pulled down by the platform). This simple step of editorial control while closing the commercials will in fact make every influencer get closer to the brand's long term objective and foster a better business relationship. This is a pertinent matter especially for those actively doing dietary supplements, health food and skincare product endorsements.

As a marketer myself I also feel the onus of regulatory gatekeeping rests as much on the brand as it does on the influencer. The SOPs that brands share with their influencer partners can simply also state how the posts are clearly specified as an #ad or a #paidpartnership regardless of device and platform type. Just like the campaign hashtag.

Ad platforms like Instagram and Youtube are not shying away from adapting to these winds of change and already have algorithmic identifiers in place that flag branded content if not labeled appropriately. Hence it's only a matter of time when creators and viewers both uphold this practice.

While what we have are recommendations, a formal regulatory and compliance rulebook may sure be on the cards just like it is in the case of TV ads. And influencers are simply being advised to make it clear that 'ads are ads', right? It's a fantastic step in recognising the magic of key opinion leaders. And this is just the beginning.

(The author is senior brand manager Moët Hennessy and a social media blogger.)