Reality Check : Implications of ASCI’s influencer guidelines

Image used for illustrative purposes only

Advertising Council of India (ASCI) has  issued a list of Guidelines for social media influencers. Shweta Purandare , Former Secretary- General  of the industry watchdog talks about the implications these guidelines could have on your beauty business.

What are the chances of you getting confused between content and advertisement while watching TV or reading print media ? It is highly unlikely – right ? The format of the TV medium is such that a consumer is easily able to distinguish between the two. Newspaper supplements, too disclose “advt” or “advertorial” status for the Print advertisements.  Of course, there are additional safeguards built-in such as the Cable TV Network regulation which requires that  “All advertisement should be clearly distinguishable from the programme and should not in any manner interfere with the programme….”. Press Council of India’s Norms for Journalistic Conduct state that “Journalistic propriety demands that advertisements must be clearly distinguishable from editorial matter carried in the newspaper….”

However, digital media does not have any such established norm or regulation in place as yet. The boundaries between content and advertisements are blurring as more and more content is being pushed out by the advertisers as well as influencers – especially on the Social Media platforms.  The promotions are camouflaged, affiliate marketing linked are being plugged-in, lot of barter deals on sponsored travel and not to miss the so called “product reviews” being dished out

As per Dentsu Digital Report 2021, Digital medium is growing exponentially and the pandemic has further propelled its adoption. Advertising spend on digital media has increased from a share of 20% in 2019 to 28% in 2020. It is further expected to reach 34% by the end of 2022.

Let us look at how marketers in India have quickly evolved. As per Study findings,  78% of market leaders leveraged “influencer” marketing route and many engaging over 10 influencers during 2020 for their campaigns. Over 13% were using this route for the first time! This trend is continuing over 2021 despite the concern about questionable influencers and their fake followers, which majority of the marketers are grappling with.

While everybody is making hay while the sun shines, if advertisers and their paid influencers continue to misrepresent paid content as organic, regulator intervention is bound to happen sooner than later. Why so ? Because, not disclosing paid content as an “ad” is tantamount to deceptive advertising and misleading advertising can get you in trouble.

Image used for illustrative purposes only

Taking cue from the International Best Practices, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) introduced Guidelines for Influencer Advertising in Digital Media to encourage self regulation among industry players. The simple ask of this guidelines is for an advertiser and for influencers engaged by that advertiser, to disclose whenever a communication is a paid for content or there is “material connection” between the two parties. While an influencer is also required to comply, an advertiser is primarily responsible – if a consumer were to complain. At the end of the day, reputation of your brand and its trustworthiness among your consumers is very important. Non-adherence by an influencer by oversight or deliberately would only damage your brand equity.

The ASCI guidelines were launched on June 14, 2021 and it is to be seen how they are being embraced by influencers. Compared to the UK benchmark that insists on having the prefix “Ad” , India requirements provide lot of flexibility to use alternate words.

Refer the infographic for the choice of hashtags.

For anymore information pertaining to ASCI compliance –

Author : Shweta Purandare

Utilising the expertise and experience gained over 28 years during her stellar career in renowned companies and rich experience as the Secretary General of the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), Ms. Purandare recently launched Tap-a-Gain, a boutique consultancy firm to offer niche service in the world of advertising. Ms. Purandare is an accomplished Corporate Communications professional in leadership roles with experience in enhancing the organization’s Corporate brand reputation and visibility among key stakeholders, be it consumers, industry or Government Authorities and regulators. At ASCI, she steered its transformation over a period of eight years wherein MOUs were established with key regulators such as Department of Consumer Affairs, FSSAI, Ministry of AYUSH and interactions with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Her experience spans over multiple sectors such as FMCG, Beautycare, Personal Hygiene, Home care,  OTC/ Healthcare, Food and Beverages. She was  the Scientific Director at L’Oreal India heading their product evaluation Centre and Consumer Complaint department prior to which she was a Regulatory Affairs expert at Procter & Gamble India.