How ASCI’s new guidelines will impact influencer marketing industry: Experts share their opinion
ASCI guidelines make it mandatory for influencers to label all kinds of promotional content, whether monetary or not
Influencers and agencies welcome ASCI’s new guidelines

How ASCI’s new guidelines will impact influencer marketing industry: Experts share their opinion

Influencers and agencies welcome ASCI’s new guidelines
  • Over the last few years, influencer marketing has grown exponentially in India.
  • The Advertising Council of India has now launched new guidelines for the influencer marketing industry to increase transparency.
  • We reached out to experts from the influencer marketing ecosystem to understand how it would impact the industry and help shape its growth in the coming years.
The Advertising Council of India (ASCI) has launched new guidelines for influencers, brands and talent agencies in a bid to make influencer marketing more transparent for consumers.

The lines between influencer’s personal content and paid content have become blurry, almost indistinguishable from regular posts. As per the guidelines, all advertisements published by social media influencers or their representatives, on such influencers’ accounts will be expected to carry a disclosure label that clearly identifies it as an advertisement. Disclosure is required if there is anything of value given to mention or talk about the advertiser’s product or service and it is supposed to be placed in a manner that is hard to miss.

Influencer marketing has been witnessing an exponential growth in India in the past few years. 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.

And the year 2020 pushed businesses of various kinds and sizes to further experiment with digital solutions as all activities from attending concerts and birthday parties to fitness sessions moved from the physical realm to digital. Today, Indian audiences are watching more online videos than ever before. Nielsen studies show that home-bound consumers have led to a 60% increase in the amount of video content watched globally.

So, as more and more Indians get connected to the internet, they discover and interact with a multitude of brands on a daily basis. ASCI’s new guidelines, experts said, will help give a structure to the industry, will elevate the level of trust between customers, influencers and brands.

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:

Varun Mayya- Digital Content Creator and CEO & Founder of Avalon Meta and Scenes by Avalon:

The reach of influencers and media is much wider than ever before and thats one of the reason why the digital economy has disrupted the traditional economy. The consumers' mindset has changed massively over the last few years and they're much more sophisticated now. This change calls for changes in the advertisers approach with regards to ethics and openness. Influencers should be mindful of the products and companies they advertise and be upfront about the fact that they're paid to promote them. When you see TV, you know Shah Rukh is paid to do the ad but on Social Media this is mostly absent. You're following a person because you find them genuine and helpful but all of a sudden when they're promoting some fitness or haircare product and you don't know whether it's genuine or not. These guidelines should be able to bridge that gap and I hope that advertisers also take this as seriously as the creators."

Viraj Sheth- Co-Founder and CEO at Monk Entertainment:

I believe the ASCI Influencer Guidelines are a welcome move within the industry. The influencer marketing industry definitely was in need of regulation considering how size-able it has become and will keep getting in the near future. Influencers and creators have the onus of ensuring complete disclosure with regards to all their endorsements and brand deals in order to make sure their audiences know of the paid partnerships and they can then evaluate their decision about whether or not they wish to still buy the product/service. The introduction of these guidelines is only half the battle won, the latter half would have to focus on correct implementation and enforcement of the same with both brands and creators.

Kunal Kishore Sinha, Co-founder and COO, ClanConnect:

Influencer marketing has been witnessing a steady growth in India in the past few years. As digital media consumption is growing, the distinction between content and promotional advertisements is becoming important. Influencer marketing has now become mainstream. Therefore, consumers have a right to know what content has been paid for by brands and the guidelines intend to bring this transparency to influencer marketing. The guidelines are crucial at this moment considering the rapid growth in branded communications to consumers via social media. Wherein there are guidelines for traditional media advertising, now, with the boom in influencer marketing, these guidelines have become essential.

The guidelines seems to have addressed all the necessary angles. These have been finalized after extensive evaluation and consideration of suggestions by industry players. With these guidelines, consumers can expect much more transparency as they navigate through the social media universe. These 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. On our part, we are geared up to guide influencers through the intricacies of the newly-launched guidelines, helping them meet all the requirements so they can focus on what they do best – create impactful content. We trust this will regulate & filter out the misleading content, creating a transparent and healthy digital world!

These guidelines will align the Indian online advertising industry with international markets. If influencers want to be followed by their audience, it is necessary for them to stay interesting, honest, creative while managing the art of storytelling to keep consumers engaged. While these new guidelines will promote transparency, it will also elevate the level of trust between customers, influencers and brands. So it will be beneficial across the stakeholders in the ecosystem. These guidelines will help the consumers to identify promotional content and also guide digital influencers. Ultimately, it 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.

Neel Gogia, Co-Founder, IPLIX Media:

The ASCI guidelines are a welcome step forward in introducing transparency and authenticity across the ecosystem. However, every new initiative will face questions on its practicality. That debate is necessary to create a sustainable solution. Hence, in my opinion, the current recommendations might not be applicable to every influencer or every tool of influencer marketing. The lines are a little blurred. For instance, a non-monetary association under which an influencer shares an unbiased product review will be labeled as an AD, leaving consumers in a tough spot. This will be difficult to implement for a tech or an auto influencer as they cannot buy every product for review as they are of high monetary value, and in fact, not all the reviews are positive as well so they cannot be labeled as an AD.

Furthermore, organic and value-added content creation with genuine product integration is being given priority by the brands, agencies as well as influencers at the moment and the current recommendations might not be aligned with this objective. For a YouTube content creator with long-format vlogs labeling the entire integration section as an AD will lead the audience to ignore the content even if it is adding value to them. A mention of 5-10 seconds should suffice rather than a full-length mention. I believe platform labels like ‘Includes paid promotion’ and ‘Paid partnership with’ on YouTube and Instagram respectively, offer that clarity for sponsored posts. This is sufficient to highlight that the integration is paid. However, additionally, the creators can put a supplementary hashtag to make it more visible. So, we will have to wait and watch how this unfolds.”

Rajni Daswani, Director, SoCheers:

The guidelines are a good guardrail in the industry that has been unregulated so far. The fact that the guidelines are not extremely stringent and do rely on influencers to see that they do justice, leaves room for brands to explore ways to circumvent around it. A lot will depend on how influencers & brands adapt to it. Many brands are averse to the whole #Ad & #Sponsored and may now start drawing parallel compares to paid media, which might see the investment in influencer marketing take a slight hit, after the phenomenal growth year that it has had.

These guidelines will be like a double-edged sword for creators as well. While they will get a lot more say in putting out content that will work on their pages, influencers/creators who are doing a lot of branded content might see a hit in their engagement & reach numbers. Quality content will continue to win nonetheless. For brands, would suggest to give influencers a little more freedom in designing the content in a way that will bring out the brand benefits, as well as get content to perform better on their channels.

Ankit Agarwal, Founder, Do Your Thng:

This was a long time coming. The blurring of the line between ads and simple user-generated content needed to be corrected. Users not only have the right to know the difference between the two, they all but demand it. Disclosure labels are unquestionably a step forward in that direction.

Besides helping bolster the trust audiences were increasingly hemorrhaging in content creators, the guidelines will hold brands and marketers more accountable. I am gratified ASCI has moved the needle in organizing a niche where entropy was just about beginning to reign supreme.