The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), the country’s voluntary self-regulatory organization for advertising, has released a set of draft guidelines that state that all social media influencers must prominently tag content that promotes of products and services on digital platforms. The guidelines come at a time when big brands are gradually relying more on influencers on social media platforms to advertise their products. The proposals, if finalized, will ensure a strict code of rules that every influencer must follow to properly disclose the nature of their promotional posts to viewers and subscribers.
The draft guidelines proposed by ASCI are expected to be finalized by March 31 of this year, following a round of consultation with digital influencers, industry stakeholders as well as consumers.
In its guidelines, ASCI directs all influencers to disclose and label any promotional item, in the first two lines, regardless of the platform. “Advertisements must be clearly distinguishable by the average consumer from independent editorial and user-generated content, to avoid the audience being confused between the two. Therefore, a disclosure label must be added from the list of approved labels, ”the organization wrote in its proposal.
ASCI has also published a set of approved labels which must be added in any promotional message. They include #ad, #collab, #promo, #sponsored, and / or #partnership. “Only permitted disclosure labels will be considered adequate, as consumers may not be familiar with the various creative ways that advertisers and influencers may wish to indicate that said communication is an advertisement.”
The body also explained why the warning should be placed in the first two lines of any post. “The disclosure label used to highlight advertising content should be straightforward (in the first two lines of a given platform, so a consumer doesn’t need to click to learn more or to scroll under the fold), visible (so people don’t miss it), appropriate for the channel (what can you see and when) and suitable for all potential devices (it should be visible regardless of the device used, or platform such as website or app, etc.). For a better understanding of the viewer, the label must be in English or translated into “the language of the advertisement”.
In the event that the promotional post is just an image (like Instagram or Snapchat stories), the tag should be superimposed on the prominent image. If the promotional message is in the form of a video without accompanying text, the label must be overlaid on the video itself. “For videos that are 15 seconds or less, the disclosure label must remain for at least two seconds. For videos longer than 15 seconds, but less than two minutes, the disclosure label remains for 1/3 of the length of the video. For videos that are two minutes or more in length, the disclosure label must remain for the duration of the section in which the promoted brand or its features, benefits, etc. are mentioned. “
In case of a live broadcast, the disclosure tag must be placed for five seconds at the end of each minute. For audio publications, the label must be announced at the beginning and at the end.
ASCI strictly asks influencers not to add filters to enhance the effect of advertised products. “Filters should not be applied to social media ads if they exaggerate the effect of branding – for example, makes hair shinier, teeth whiter, etc.”
The body also asks influencers to do due diligence on the performance claims made by the product, such as being best in class, twice as good, more sustainable, etc. “The proof of due diligence would include correspondence with the advertiser or brand owner confirming that the claim made in the advertisement is capable of scientific justification. “
Finally, ASCI recommends that a contractual agreement be established between the advertiser and the influencer which “includes clauses relating to disclosure, the use of filters and due diligence”.
The guidelines recommend that all disclosures be prominent on all promotional messages on all devices, whether phones, tablets, or PCs, and on all platforms, from Facebook to Twitter. ASCI said: “General disclosures in a profile / bio / about section will not be considered adequate because people visiting the site may read individual reviews or watch individual videos without seeing the disclosure on another page. . “
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