Technological advancement and development have brought changes in the economic, political, and social spheres. Consequently, influencers have turned to the market to promote and advertise their goods, products, and services through social media. Social media is a platform that has facilitated marketing since a large group of people can access the information—influencers, also known as bloggers, conduct marketing and advertisements on social media. Influencers are individuals in the digital media who have a vast audience and following thus can influence their following into buying specific goods or paying for certain services.
Additionally, digital media has the virtual influencer, a fictional character created to perform similar roles to those of an influencer. Different bloggers engage in various blogging activities, and some have specialized areas they workaround. For instance, there are food bloggers, sports bloggers, political bloggers, and business bloggers. Certainly, advertisement and marketing products on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, just to mention a few, is proving to be the new norm in the current society. A considerable population owns electronic gadgets that facilitate communication and sharing of ideas.
Marketing and advertisement of products and services require good partnerships and agreements between the brands and the bloggers. The arrangements may take different forms, such as long-term partnerships and one-off promotions, depending on the parties’ agreement. One-off promotions are forms and examples of marketing where brands partner up with influencers to market their goods and services for one time. Long-term contracts can take written agreements between the brands and influencers where the influencer promotes the brand for an agreed time for material connection. Material connection and advertisement in digital media differ on a case-to-case basis. It includes the rewards accorded to the influencer by the brand or advertiser for the services rendered. The material connection (rewards) may take various forms such as compensation, gifts, and products without any attached conditions, trips, employment, sweepstakes entries, media barters, and discounts. The rise in advertisement and marketing activities led to the need for regulation. The Advertising Standards Council of India formulated guidelines that govern influencers and advertisers in their business activities.
Disclosure in marketing and advertisement is the first listed guideline. This requirement stipulates that any influencer must include a disclosure clause in all material times when conducting promotions, including a disclosure clause that the activity conducted is an advertisement. The clause must consist of a clear and distinct label accompanying the ad.
Guidelines on disclosure
This section deals with the criteria used to determine whether the disclosure is required in a transaction. Disclosure in digital marketing and advertisement is only needed if there is an already established material connection between the advertiser and the influencer. This memo has indicated the various forms of the financial relationship earlier, and it need not be in financial terms. Secondly, in instances where the evaluation originated from the influencer, the advertisement must be accompanied by disclosure as long as there is an established connection between the influencer/blogger and the advertiser. Thirdly, where there exists no form of monetary relationship between the influencer and the advertiser, the influencer is under no duty or obligation to include a disclosure clause or label in any advertisement he does.
The disclosure must be clear and strategically placed to ensure that the consumer sees the advertisement. Instagram and Snapchat are examples of ads that heavily rely on pictures for ads. Therefore, the influencer must ensure that the label is superimposed over the picture or the video to capture the viewer’s attention. Moreover, videos differ in terms of the duration of the video. Therefore, the disclosure label in videos going for a maximum of 15 seconds or lesser should last a minimum of 3 seconds. For videos that last between a minimum of 15 seconds and a maximum of 2 minutes, the disclosure should stay for a third of the video. Lastly, the Advertising Standards Council of India stipulates that the disclosure for videos going for a minimum duration of 2 minutes should last the entire period of the video.
Secondly, in live stream coverage, the disclosure of the advertised products or services should be made at the beginning and the end of the broadcast. Thirdly, the Advertising Standards Council of India indicates that the disclosure in audio media should be conducted at the front and a lot of the coverage. Additionally, the Council insists that the exposure should also be indicated and expressly made before and immediately after a break.
Fourthly, any influencer must communicate in an easily understandable language when disclosing the products and services advertised. The English language is the most preferred language for disclosures in digital marketing and advertisements. Aside from the language used, the Council provides that the manner of exposure should be clear and easily understood by the consumers. Virtual influencers must clearly state that they are not human beings before the disclosure. The influencer must adhere to the stipulations laid down by the Advertising Standards Council of Indian. The advertiser must correct or order the influencer to pull down a post that is not in line with the stipulation of the Indian Advertisement Council.
The Advertising Standards Council expressly notes that disclosures should be made in a manner that is not so hard to miss. Additionally, how they are placed should be clear and easily identifiable by the consumer. Secondly, disclosures should not block or hidden in a group of hashtags and links, but rather, they should be capable of standing their ground for easy identification.
This is the second guideline listed by the Council. Under this requirement, the influencer has a duty and an obligation to exercise due diligence concerning the advertiser. The influencer should ensure that before making any advertisement, the advertiser can provide the goods and services advertised.
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