Influencer Guidelines Coming to Canada – Will They Make an Actual Difference?
Influencer marketing is the hot topic with brands and agencies today, and unfortunately one of the trending questions is around influencer marketing standards and compliance. The core benefits of influencer marketing, primarily the authenticity and credibility that it adds to an overall brand story, are being eroded by some brands and agencies who have been treating influencers like a supplier and not a true partner.
With 65% of brands planning to increase their influencer marketing budget, we need to make sure there are industry-wide standards. To help achieve this, Advertising Standards Canada announced that influencer guidelines will be coming in 2017, which will require brands to fully disclose any paid endorsements or mentions of products/services by an influencer. That’s a good start, but disclosure is only one element that the ASC should consider, and for these guidelines to be truly impactful, they will need to address a number of pressing issues:
1. What constitutes paid?
There’s no doubt that influencer marketing is becoming increasingly paid, however Veritas strongly believes that influencer marketing should be built on relationships and experiences over transactions. So, if an influencer has a long term relationship with a brand, one where it’s a win-win scenario for both parties and no payment is made, does this relationship then need to be disclosed?
Just because an influencer includes #spon or #ad in their post doesn’t mean their followers will necessarily read it. An influencer can include multiple hashtags in one post, decreasing the likelihood that #spon/#ad will be seen. According to an FTC official, “if consumers don’t read the words, then there is no effective disclosure.” One way to resolve this is for the FTC and ASC to work with the Facebooks and Twitters of this world to make the “sponsored” call-out that appears on paid ads to be made available to influencers. This will ensure that there is full disclosure and create consistency across all platforms.
The U.S. influencer guidelines are regulated by the FTC, meaning they are legally binding; if brands/influencers are found to be in breach of guidelines then there can be substantial fines. However even with the threat of fines, many brands/influencers are often not adhering to the guidelines. The non-profit group called Truth in Advertising recently carried out an audit of each of the Kardashian sisters’ Instagram accounts and found that each of them has around 100 posts that “do not clearly or conspicuously disclose their relationships with the companies being promoted in the posts as is required by federal law.” If the ASC want the guidelines to be adhered to, then they need to be properly enforced and monitored.
4. Do consumers actually care?
Veritas President Krista Webster recently spoke to a group of young millennials at the University of Columbia on the topic of influencers. When it came to discussing how they feel about influencers being paid, the general sentiment was that they didn’t care. Many millennials are savvy enough to know that these influencers aren’t promoting a brand for the good of their health, and that the exchange between brand and influencer is mutually beneficial. What’s important is that there is a natural connection between both parties, otherwise the influencer loses credibility and, ultimately, followers.
We look forward to the Advertising Standards Canada guidelines, but hope they go far enough to bring real change to the industry and tackle the difficult questions. While we’re all for transparency between brands and consumers, we hope this isn’t just lip service, as there are more pressing issues to be addressed. ASC can’t answer all of these questions on their own, and we look forward to continuing this conversation at the upcoming Marketing Evolution Summit where Krista will be hosting an influencer panel titled ‘Beyond the BS: The True Value of Influencer Marketing.’
This article was written by Head of Digital, Kevin Twomey. Keep the conversation going with us @VeritasComm.