From June 14, online influencers with a wide following on social media who advertise brands from their accounts will have to divulge paid partnerships, according to the Advertising Standards Council of India's (ASCI) latest guidelines.
The final broad lines, unveiled on May 27 were initially issued in February, and feedback was sought from all stakeholders - influencers, advertisers, agencies, and consumers.
ASCI has made it obligatory for all digital influencers to distinctly label promotional content they post and do proper due diligence about products or services they promote online.
The new guidelines are applicable for content spanning across websites, blogs, social media platforms, apps, digital terrestrial television, and video streaming platforms, among others.
The self-regulatory body projected the size of the online influencers industry at $150 million, with digital marketing making significant progress over the past few years.
It has been engaged in stakeholder interactions since last year and released a draft of the influencer advertising guidelines in February 2021.
Dhruv Chitgopekar, founding partner of the Collective Artists Network and the chief executive of Bigbang.Social, who was among those consulted, told reporters that influencers started off as "guerillas" on the marketing scene but are now at the forefront.
He exuded confidence that the guidelines will not result in any dip in revenues for such influencers and there will be better transparency.
ASCI Secretary-General Manisha Kapoor said the organisation has hired technology firms to trawl content to identify non-disclosure.
She further said ASCI had taken a very collaborative approach while coming up with the guidelines.
Its chairman Subhash Kamath said so far it has seen 95 per cent compliance with its actions taken after flagging norm violations, and if nothing works, the body can also escalate it to the respective sectoral regulators.
"On social media, lines between content and promotion are getting blurred. The lines are not as clear," he said, explaining the need for ASCI to intervene.
He added that the guidelines, which are out on the web, do not seek to influence the creative process of making an ad at all. It is only the disclosures that ASCI wants as consumers have a right to know what is paid for and what is organic.
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