In today’s world of advertising, digital endorsements are crucial to a brand’s marketing strategy. With an increasing number of brands collaborating with popular bloggers for product launches and promotions, the coveted concept of “brand ambassadors” is gradually expanding from celebrities to social media influencers. Targeted reach and more engagement—sounds like the perfect formula for digital advertisements, right? There is a respite—the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) is listening and we may have new influencer guidelines by ASCI? The body intends to release a new set of guidelines for digital endorsements driven by social media influencers.
The regulatory council’s objective is to protect consumers while helping them make informed decisions about their online purchases and activities; these new guidelines are likely going to be based on international practices in the field, as per a recent report by LiveMint.
What implications will this policing have on brands?
Aditya Chandra, Founder of Sparkt, a Mumbai-based Creative & Digital Marketing agency, says “From a brand perspective, [this change] would nudge brand managers to be a bit more responsible for people who represent their brands within the digital ecosystem possibly with the same amount of vigour that goes into selecting a brand ambassador.”
“I don’t think it [the new guidelines] will make too much of a difference in the way most brands think,” says Yash Singh Dabi, Portfolio Associate with Spring Marketing Capital. He adds, “The challenge is that brands have been introduced to influencers as a media vehicle and not a solution for partnering with authentic content creators, which is why Indian influencers are trying to gain followership instead of focusing on creating authentic content.”
Chandra suggests, “Longer-term, sustainable associations that would form the underpinnings of a sustained engagement between the brand and consumer could possibly help to structure influencer engagement.”
Disclosures by social media influencers—a step in the right direction
Youtuber-Blogger Scherezade Shroff is all about maintaining transparency in the digital ecosystem. In her recent video titled “Are influencers scamming you?,” Shroff discusses about genuine brand collaborations and their declaration, “influencers” with fake followers, and more.
Shroff candidly shares how she has had no choice but to refuse brand collaborations wherein the brand(s) didn’t approve of her disclosing the sponsorship.
Quite a few influencers are already doing their bit and “being responsible” on social media. We are talking about those influencers who declare upfront that the post features paid collaboration and/or diligently use hashtags such as #Ad and #SponsoredPost (or similar) in their endorsement posts. This hashtag might be lurking toward the end of the post, often shadowed by a bunch of trending and brand-specific hashtags; nevertheless, the humble disclosure is noticed and appreciated.
How can social media influencer agencies help bridge the gap?
According to Aditya Chandra, social media marketing agencies need to invest in technology platforms that can help them measure impact metrics of such digital endorsements. “Agencies typically adopt influencer marketing as an extension of the campaign’s core media rollout, adding some vanity to the metrics rather than impact on brand; however, given the current consumer ecosystem, influencer-driven marketing strategies tend to have their own efficacy and work just as well if there is a sustained ongoing effort.”
Dabi of Spring Marketing Capital also believes that brands need to revisit how they collaborate with content creators. “Until brands start investing in ‘collaborations’ and not just reach, no guidelines can really help change the way influencers are looked from a customer’s POV,” he adds.
After all, it all boils down to the end users—all of us who are constantly scrolling through feeds and consuming massive amounts of information fed to us, often trusting the content shared by their favourite bloggers.
“Responsible Brands + Agencies = Happy Consumers” seems to be Chandra’s mantra for a happier, more sustainable digital ecosystem. “At the end, [it is important to] see the transition from vanity to impact,” he sums up.
What do you think about the impending rollout of ASCI’s regulatory guidelines? Share your thoughts in the comments below.