In order to enable consumers to easily recognise promotional content on digital platforms, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has released draft guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media.
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 March 31, 2021. This guideline will be applicable to all promotional posts published on or after April 15, 2021.
The guidelines require that advertisements must be obviously distinguishable by the average consumer from editorial and independent user-generated content, to prevent the audience from being confused between the two. Therefore, a disclosure label must be added from the list of approved labels.
Further, the disclosure label used to highlight advertising content needs to be upfront (within the first two lines of any given platform, such that a consumer need not click on see more or have to scroll under the fold), prominent (so people don’t miss it), appropriate for the channel (what can you see and when) and suitable for all potential devices (it needs to be visible regardless of the device used, or platform such as website or app etc.).
“The digital space is vast. However, promotional content is often indistinguishable from regular posts. Consumers have the right to easily recognise promotional content. The guidelines will help consumers identify promotional content and also guide digital influencers,” Subhash Kamath, chairman, ASCI, said.
According to the guidelines, the disclosure label must be in English or translated into the language of the advertisement in a way that it is well understood by the average consumer who is viewing the advertisement. Blanket disclosures in a profile/bio/about section will not be considered adequate because people visiting the site might read individual reviews or watch individual videos without seeing the disclosure on another page
Moreover, if the advertisement is only a picture post such as Instagram stories or Snapchat, the label needs to be superimposed over the picture and it should be ensured that the average consumer is able to see it clearly. In the case of video not accompanied by a text post, the disclosure label should be superimposed on the video in a manner that is easily visible to the viewer. For videos that last 15 seconds or lesser, the disclosure label must stay for a minimum of two seconds. For videos longer than 15 seconds, but less than two minutes, the disclosure label stays for one-third the length of the video. For videos which are two minutes or longer, the disclosure label must stay for the entire duration of the section in which the promoted brand or its features, benefits are mentioned. In live streams, the disclosure label should be placed periodically, for five seconds at the end of every minute so that users who see part of the stream can see the disclosure. In the case of audio media, the disclosure label must be clearly announced at the beginning and at the end of the audio.
The guidelines also state that filters should not be applied to social media advertisements if they exaggerate the effect of the claim that the brand is making- for example, makes hair shinier, teeth whiter among others.
Furthermore, the influencer must do their due diligence about any technical or performance claims made by them such as 2x better, effect lasts for one month, fastest speed, best in class, among others. Evidence of due diligence would include correspondence with the advertiser or brand owner confirming that the specific claim made in the advertisement is capable of scientific substantiation.
“It is recommended that the contractual agreement between advertiser and influencer carries clauses pertaining to disclosure, use of filters as well as due diligence,” the guidelines specified.