Here's what experts think about ASCI’s new draft guidelines for influencer advertising
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ASCI today released its draft guidelines to help consumers understand the difference between paid and organic posts

Here's what experts think about ASCI’s new draft guidelines for influencer advertising

ASCI today released its draft guidelines to help consumers understand the difference between paid and organic posts
  • ASCI released new draft guidelines to help consumers identify promotional content from user-generated content.
  • We reached out to brand experts and influencer marketing agencies to understand what it would mean for the industry.
To help consumers understand social media a little better, and in an attempt to make sure they understand what content posted by an influencer is an ad, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has released draft guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media.

Influencer marketing has been witnessing a steady growth in India in the past few years. Today, Indian audiences are watching more online videos than ever before. It was time to take a step forward towards building a transparent advertising ecosystem. Nielsen studies show that home-bound consumers have led to a 60% increase in the amount of video content watched globally.

ASCI, in its statement said that the guidelines for influencers advertising on digital media will be available for all stakeholders, including industry, digital influencers as well as consumers for feedback till March 8, 2021. Based on the feedback and inputs, the final guidelines will be issued by ASCI by 31st March, 2021. This guideline will be applicable to all promotional posts published on or after 15th April 2021.

We reached out to experts from the influencer ecosystem to understand the implications of the guidelines and how it will impact stakeholders, and here is what they had to say:

Arjun Mohan, CEO – India, upGrad

A much-welcomed move by the ASCI, which has the potential to create a profound long-term impact affecting consumers’ trust in the overall concept of advertising. We realise the influencer marketing sector has seen exponential growth over the past decade and has also become a core of our brand-building efforts at upGrad. We look forward to the newly drafted guidelines which I’m sure will further make influencer marketing more transparent and also bring-forth better opportunities for brands to create responsible advertising for their audience, at large.

Chaitanya Ramalingegowda, Co-founder & DirectorWakefit.co

We believe the new draft guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media suggested by ASCI is an extremely encouraging move. As more and more Indians get connected to the internet, they discover and interact with a multitude of brands on a daily basis. While these new guidelines will promote transparency, it will also elevate the level of trust between customers, influencers and brands. Given that brands and influencers are required to do a thorough due diligence about aspects like using filters and technical or performance claims made by a brand, it is likely to instil a sense of accountability and provide clarity to customers.

Ashwini Deshpande, Co-founder & Director, Elephant Design

An influencer garners a large follower base because of consistent & aligned content for the kind of audience he/ she is aiming for. If the influencers want to continue getting followed by their audience, it is necessary for them to stay interesting and honest. Influencer marketing has reached a critical mass in India and it is the right time to have these clear guidelines from ASCI that protect consumers from being misled.

The draft guidelines by ASCI which are open for public discussion for the next few days, have transparency at its core and should be welcomed by the advertising industry. The most important guideline on prominent labelling has been rightfully specified for each social media channel – will help the consumer from getting misguided by influencer advertisements.

The guidelines have ensured three prominent things:

• Any content where the brand has paid the influencer and has had reasonable control over the content needs to be called out as 'advertisement'.
• Influencer must make it obvious that the content is an 'advertisement'. This should be a clear indication to the follower that the content has bias.
• If the influencer is making some specific claims, they should be diligently substantiated by the advertiser or brand owner.

Kunal Kishore Sinha, Co-founder, ClanConnect

ASCI’s newly issued guidelines for influencer marketing will unlock a wealth of new opportunities for the fast-evolving segment that will result in positive outcomes for the sector in the long run. When a major industry body such as the ASCI deems that there is a need to introduce guidelines for influencers and the influencer marketing community, it shows how the market has evolved and has assumed a mainstream stature in the larger advertising space. These guidelines will not only streamline the space and offer a direction but also ensure that there is an added sense of social responsibility amongst the influencer community.

Needless to say, we welcome this move by the ASCI for the segment as it will act as a guiding light for new and established content creators, who will now be more mindful of the kind of content that they are bringing to their target audiences. An extremely positive move from the ASCI, these guidelines will act as a catalyst for more organized and structured platforms such as ClanConnect to set new benchmarks for the industry as a whole. Platforms such as ours will play a major role in assisting content creators in navigating through the various regulations and conform to them without any inadvertent missteps. With ASCI introducing these guidelines, the influencer marketing segment also joins the league of recognized and celebrated domains of the advertising ecosystem and indicates further growth and evolution for this space.

Apaksh Gupta, Founder & CEO, One Impression

We're elated to have been partners with the entire ecosystem and the regulatory body that is fostering a holistic approach towards digital advertising. Observing the paradigm shift from traditional to digital, it only coherent to have a transparent & clear ecosystem laid out via the proposed ASCI guidelines, that is beneficial to both digital influencers & consumers. We trust this will regulate & filter out the misleading content, which is suggestive of a much healthier digital world out there!

Ankita Chauhan, Group Head Strategy, Tonic Worldwide

As the word opinion leader suggests, influencers are leading opinion and influencing purchase decisions, across categories. A lot of time the content is promoted as a part of the larger story and seeded in subtly, making the whole placement look rather organic. However, consumers have full right to know what is paid and what is organic. It’s quite basic. I’ve observed several influencers labelling sponsored content and I think industry bodies making it a mandate only benefits the consumers at large.

Aayush Tiwari - Head of Talent Acquisition, Monk Entertainment
I believe that the latest issued ASCI guidelines is a good step to secure the future of now one of the most popular ways of brand promotions - influencer marketing. As the guidelines states, consumers, here disguised as a follower, should have all the rights to know what's being uploaded organically and what's a paid advertisement. This declaration also will motivate the influencer to study about the brand/product and investigate their claims before they go all out publicizing them. Post formulation we'll surely see less cases of misleading advertisements, safeguarding both the consumer spends and influencers getting caught off guard for their claims -

Ankit Agarwal, Founder, Do Your Thng

USA’s FTC and UK’S ASA both issued regulations years back outlining explicit do’s and don'ts for influencers. It was high time influencer marketing in India followed the same path. The lack of guidelines gave more oxygen to damaging content, and it chipped away the hard-earned trust in creators. When consumers know an ad is an ad or content just that – mere organic content, which is one of the rules in the draft: upfront labelling on ads; the confidence in a creator is not broken.

When creators are authentic, including being straightforward about sponsored content, they make more impact and deliver deeper engagement. That’s why I have been vocal about the necessity for the entire niche to abide by advertising rules from day one. With this framework from ASCI, that hopefully comes into play in April, we finally move the needle on streamlining the sector that has been unorganised for far too long.

Ramya Ramachandran, Founder & CEO, Whoppl

In line with the latest regulation imposed by the ASCI, the need for total transparency in the realm of influencer marketing has been rightfully reaffirmed. In today’s time and age, when influencer marketing is growing at an unprecedented pace and almost everybody wants to become an influencer, it is the need of the hour to safeguard a consumer’s right to information and transparency. With major fiascos like the Fyre Festival, it has become urgently crucial to come up with influencer marketing strategies and content that are 100% credible and verified. Here at Whoppl, content is the hero for us and we have always ensured transparency by fully disclosing the influencer’s professional contract with us—by getting the sponsorship tag in place, for instance, wherever required. In fact, we always strive for a strategy wherein we ask the influencers to first try out the product/service, make their opinions and create authentic content as per their tonality, while also ensuring full disclosure of their partnership with the brand.

Jo Broner, WIBA Spokesperson (Paris)

At the heart of it, ASCI is recognizing the digital influencer space as part of the mainstream industry now, which is very good news for the influencers. It is going to build more trust between the artists and their audience with increased transparency. It also means the marketers have to channelize verifiable information and not unverifiable marketing claims. Influencers connect with curated communities, who listen to them for the credibility they bring, so they have an inherent moral responsibility to not breach the trust of their audience, ASCI is bolstering it with new laws, and that is going to bring in due discipline in the environment, so it's a welcome move.

Divyanshu Damani, Co-founder of TagMango

In this digital-age amid a plethora of marketing platforms, influencer marketing has carved its own niche. However, there was a need for guidelines that further enhances the trust of consumers in influencers. As the influencers also need to understand that when they partner with a brand, they share their own trust in the brand with their communities and audience. So, it becomes highly critical for them to only undertake the partnerships that they believe will positively impact their audience. Therefore, in my opinion, it is an extremely vital move. The guidelines issued will allow them to deeply evaluate the offering and the trust that they’re sharing. Furthermore, it would reduce the overall funnel of their brand partnerships and thus, push them to think about opting for sustainable monetary options which we are building at TagMango.

Pranav Panpalia, Founder, OpraahFx

The ASCI guidelines are simple and easy to adhere to. The guidelines are more or less similar to the west. In the past couple of years, this has been thoroughly implemented by international influencers and I am happy to see India leading in the same direction. This will definitely make the digital ecosystem more responsible and streamlined. I am in complete agreement with all the points of the guidelines, especially with the fact that images and videos should not be altered or beautified by influencers while advertising on social media. Since digital media caters to a much more aware audience set, keeping it real is the only way to connect with them. Looking forward to a more transparent digital world.

Rajni Daswani, Director at SoCheers

Influencer marketing is a $100 million industry in India now, and brands of all kinds - big or small - are benefiting from using influencers & content creators to drive their business objectives. The fact that it’s been unregulated so far, we have seen some brands sneakily get away with things that would not be considered ethical if it were to be shown in a TVC or an OOH. The guidelines will serve as a good guardrail in these cases. However, on the flip side, the popularity of influencer marketing in a brand’s marketing budget is due to the flexibility of communication that allows them to showcase the benefits of their products & services in different ways without it looking very promotional. Digital consumers today are smart enough to understand what is an Advert vs what is organic, and hence brands are willing to pay more to get their promotional material to look as organic as possible. With these guidelines kicking in, we might see the overall engagement and reach with influencers drop and might see it get the same status quo as a paid media ad on digital. I think while these guidelines are necessary, they should not be extremely stringent so as to avoid creating a dent in the overall influencer marketing industry that is growing at a faster pace than ever.

Ambika Sharma, Founder & MD, Pulp Strategy

The influencer industry is growing fast. According to digital marketing agency AdLift, India’s influencer market is estimated at $75-$150 million a year as compared to the global market of $1.75 billion. This is an industry that has become mainstream within the advertising space and is only expected to grow as more and more Indians are going online. It’s no wonder that brands across sectors are associating with influencers to get across their marketing messages. So, much of what influencers post is promotional and a lot of it is not identified as such. Such non-disclosure is a disservice to consumers and is misleading. With the guidelines, ASCI will assist consumers, brands and content creators to ensure all stakeholders’ interests are preserved through a self-regulatory approach. The digital space is huge and promotional content is often indistinguishable from regular posts. Consumers have the right to easily recognise promotional content. These guidelines will help the consumers to identify promotional content and also guide digital influencers. These guidelines will benefit the consumers and the digital influencers.

Gautam Madhavan, Founder & CEO, MAD Influence

I'm very happy with the new set of guidelines set by asci. It's good for business and shows Influencer Marketing in India is just going to grow more aggressively.

This also helps consumers identify which content is commissioned and which is not , and accordingly their buying decisions is more rationale.