The Advertising Standards Council of India hosted the #GetItRight Brand Influencer Summit 2023 recently to start conversations among brands and influencers.
With influencer marketing witnessing a spike in advertising effort and investment going into it, it becomes imperative for the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), to address consumer concerns that are triggered from this new dimension.
Speaking with afaqs!, Manisha Kapoor, chief executing officer and secretary general, ASCI, says “As an advertising regulator, we want to inform ourselves and the ecosystem about the contours of brand-influencer relationship, how it will evolve and emerge for its different stakeholders.”
The ASCI #GetItRight Brand Influencer Summit 2023, held in Mumbai recently, aimed to bring together brands and influencers under one roof to showcase and discuss the right way to build sustainable relationships between them and the consumers, and ensure that influencer-led brand growth is equitable and beneficial for all stakeholders.
It highlighted the different types of influencers, in terms of not just their following, but also how each of them operate and engage with their audience.
Most common influencer marketing concerns
Kapoor states that one of the biggest issues that the ASCI has witnessed, is about disclosures. “Disclosing that a particular post has a certain commercial intent, needs to be clearly mentioned to the consumers. What's interesting is that the consumers don't have a problem with influencers selling something. However, the fact is they're concealing, which is an issue.”
The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) requires disclosure of material connections. If influencers are unable to do so, they're potentially violating the law. Additionally, influencers need to be careful about the claims they're making, as these need to be substantiated.
As per ASCI’s recent influencer trust report, virtual digital assets was the top violator category and the most number of violations were seen in the personal care category. However, over 90% of these cases just required modification, ads per the report.
In the case of VDA, Kapoor mentions, the category requires specific disclaimers that are required to tell users there's a certain risk involved. It's the biggest problem area in most of the reported cases.
The ASCI has seen that many D2C brands using influencers, tend to avoid disclosure. “Unsubstantiated claims are also made, and these could be made by influencers or even on the brand’s own handles. So, both the ads are misleading, in terms of the claims that are being made and the nature of the post itself,” Kapoor elaborates.
It's important for an industry body like the ASCI to collaborate with social media platforms, influencer marketing and advertising agencies, and influencers themselves to ensure that they are aware about its guidelines.
Kapoor mentions, “Our approach has been very collaborative. When the ASCI brought out the guidelines, we had several rounds of consultations with influencers, agencies and brands that use influencers regularly to know what would be an appropriate and fair guideline. And, from that point onwards, it's been a journey of constant conversations.”
She adds, “The idea is to be together in this journey, while keeping consumer trust at the very centre. We all have to understand that it's consumer trust which both influencers and brands want. Without it, there's no point of influencers and brands coming together, and advertising becomes meaningless.”
Some pertinent challenges for ASCI
The whole digital landscape has become quite challenging for any regulator, due to the massive number of ads and commercial posts on the medium. On TV and print, there is a certain limitation and finiteness to the ads. But on digital, it has exploded, in terms of the number of creative units out.
“For any regulator, just to manage this wide spectrum and the quantum and volume of advertising, is challenging,” states Kapoor.
She adds that the nature of advertising is such that it sometimes becomes quite difficult to distinguish it from content. As a regulator, the ASCI doesn't regulate content, but advertising. With the blurring advertising and content lines, it may not always be very apparent whether an influencer post is organic or commercial.
According to Kapoor, another challenge is the introduction of new formats on social media platforms. “For features like stories or platforms like Snapchat, where the ad no longer remains after 24 hours, it becomes difficult for consumers to report it, and for us to be able to track it later.”
The ASCI is trying to build consciousness amongst advertisers and influencers to do the right thing, because over the long-term, that is what is going to make sure that the industry remains active.
Kapoor feels that if the industry is seen as untrustworthy and the consumers lose their trust in this format of advertising, it will fizzle out soon.