On World Social Media Day (June 30), the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) held a two-part online discussion on the importance of regulating influencer marketing content and monitoring social media spaces for the purpose.
The council had recently announced guidelines for influencer advertising that mandate social media influencers to add a disclosure label to clarify if their post includes a paid promotion. This is to make sure that the viewer is aware that the content they are consuming could be a promotion. The guidelines apply to posts or advertisements put online on or after June 4, 2021.
In order to make the guidelines more clearer to advertisers and influencers, ASCI has been holding workshops and e-learning sessions.
In addition, it will launch a new mechanism to allow advertisers to send their campaigns to ASCI. This will allow advertisers to cross-check their work and ensure they adhere to the guidelines.
“There's going to be a more formal and a much broader service that we're going to provide where people can send or cross-check their campaigns with us, even before they get into production. We can actually advise them but it's not a pre-approval, let's be clear about that. It's more like an advisory, where we can point out the areas where they might violate the code or fall into trouble later,” said Subhash Kamath, Chairman, ASCI and CEO of BBH and Publicis Worldwide, India.
Asked how the industry has accepted the new influencer guidelines, Manisha Kapoor, Secretary-General, ASCI, said they are seeing a lot of traction from influencers and brands who are reaching out to them for clarifications. “I think you're seeing action at all fronts where people are complying with it, where there is no compliance. We have people pointing it out to us. There is a curiosity and willingness among those who may be a little confused to understand a little bit more about these guidelines.”
Discussing the role brands have played during the pandemic and how the digital environment has accelerated due to the lockdown, Kapoor suggested there is a legitimate role for brands to play in this scenario and address people’s concerns. She said with the digital boost, it is natural for brands to come in and focus their efforts online. She said in this quest, they don’t want brands to be dishonest and take advantage of consumers who have felt vulnerable in this situation.
According to Dhruv Chitgopekar, Co-Founder and CEO at BigBang.Social / Co-Founder Collective Artists Network, the nuances of the guidelines are yet to follow. “This is only the first phase of more conversations and more dialogues. With the kind of marketing that takes place, the nuances will get added. Right now it is very straightforward and vanilla. The ASCI guidelines do a phenomenal job at being broadly based. But now the nuances will also increase.”
“Right now the adoption is largely focused on tier-1 urban metros. We are working to push it to micro-regions and markets beyond English and Hindi,” he added.
ASCI partnered with Reech, a French technology company, which will help it monitor posts on social media. Explaining how the platforms will be monitored, Guillaume Doki-Thonon, Founder and CEO, Reech, said they partnered with major social networks that can get them all the posts put online every day by eight million influencers worldwide.
“As we get that content, we are able to run some machine learning algorithm that detects the content that might be sponsored. I said it might be because sometimes it is clear, sometimes it's not clear. So we developed some regular algorithms that can detect the content that can be in partnership or where a brand or an advertiser can be behind it. We're able to classify the ones that can be improved in terms of transparency and the ones that have not been disclosed at all.”
Guy Parker, President, ICAS and Chief Executive ASA, UK, said social media platforms themselves must monitor such posts by providing tools that can help classify paid content better. He said while a few platforms do provide such tools there is always scope to better them. “We at regulatory bodies can't just make the assumption that because a tool or mechanism is being provided by a platform, it's going to be enough.”