Welcome to our brand new series of blog posts investigating the latest trends, news and everything else in the world of Digital Marketing. With the first month of 2019 drawing to a close we thought it was the perfect time to share the latest news to hit the headlines-changes to Influencer Marketing guidelines. To you and me that means how famous Instagram and YouTube stars disclose items and experiences as being gifted or sponsored, ensuring transparency within the industry.
While Influencer Marketing isn’t something we specialise in at Purple, it’s still a part of our everyday lives every time we open up our Instagram App. Back in 2018 new guidelines were released by the Advertising Standards Authority, ensuring influencers were transparent about posts they were being paid to put up or items within their images they had been gifted. And now 2019 looks to be bringing update to those guidelines, causing uproar in the influencer community. Personally, I’m not sure what to think-I want to know when a post features a paid promotion, but the latest update seems to be taking it a bit far.
Firstly, what is influencer marketing and why is it so popular these days? Well it’s basically celebrity endorsement. However, influencers are more the draw these days as they can be anyone, anywhere, from well known fashion photographers to someone with nothing but a good eye for style. By taking this approach, 67% of marketers believe influencer marketing helps them reach a more targeted audience and therefore ROI is 11 times higher than TV or print advertising.
In 2018, celebrities and influencers were required to ensure every post which included a paid promotion clearly stated it was an advert. Users should never be left thinking it is the persons opinion when there is a monetary incentive involved. The ASA even published an ‘Influencer Guide’ to ensure the guidelines were clear. This guide concluded that an ad can be anything from being paid to post about a product to affiliate marketing where an influencer will make a profit from posting a discount code or link. The ASA also published a list of approved language to make this obvious-Ad, advert, advertising or advertisement-gone were the days of #spon or just mentioning the brand in the caption. Burying #ad amongst 10 other hashtags wasn’t acceptable either.
So with all of these rules in place and being widely used across social media, what on earth could the new guidelines be bringing? Well, this information is not yet widely accessible-suggesting those in the industry have been pre-warned before official guidelines are published. However, signs of change are beginning to surface within the influencer community -the past few days have seen big names broach the subject within Instagram post captions and on their stories-and not necessarily in a positive way.
From our research it seems that influencers must now disclose whether products or experiences within their posts are an ad, gift or sponsored. Previously, it only had to be disclosed when a post included a monetary gain, forming an advert. Influencers must now disclose when items have been gifted to them but are not being paid to promote them and if they have a past or current relationship with a brand but are not being paid to promote a product. This also applies to experiences including trips away which are now common practice in Influencer Marketing-flying high profile bloggers to flashy locations just to ensure those Instagram snaps are taken and YouTube videos are recorded.
This now even applies if a product has been bought by the influencer, but they have worked with the brand in the past-that just seems a little unfair if you ask me. To put this into perspective it could mean that a fashion blogger who purchases a coat from Topshop would have to state they have worked with the brand in the past even though this purchase was completely their own choice. Over the last week or so it seems influencers are being extremely vigilant, even going as far as stating that ‘No products in this post are sponsored or gifted’. While its great to see this level of transparency is taking the rules to this extreme a bit much? Especially when platforms including Instagram and YouTube incorporate features to show when content features a paid promotion already.
These changes are already sending the Influencer community into a frenzy, panicing about how exactly to word their captions for the fear of being fined by the ASA for not compliying. We’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for further developments on possible new guidelines as awareness spreads across the influencer community. Will the new changes be welcomed or is it just overkill in an industry already cluttered with rules and regulations?