Last month we looked at how the Advertising Standards Authority had updated their Influencer Marketing Guidelines in late 2018 but more changes were impending with little trace of where they were coming from. The 23rd January saw the Competition and Markets Authority shed some light on the situation with the release of their Guide for Social Media Endoursements.
The CMA had previously teamed up with the ASA to produce the Influencer Guide. This new announcement and accompanying guide is the latest in a line of attempts aimed at encouraging influencers and brands to be more transparent.
What does this mean for brands?
The CMA's new guide is targeted at influencers, marketing teams and brands. For responsible brands and influencers, this guide is unlikely to change much although it does help to clarify that certain types of disclosures don't go far enough.
The key points from the guide are:
- Influencers should disclose when they have been paid, given or loaned things-AND the audience shouldn’t have to click anything to find this out-it should be at the front of captions or within titles.
- Be clear about their relationship with a brand or business, including any past relationship;
- Not mislead followers by suggesting they have used a product which they haven’t, or that they have bought something that was in fact gifted.
These new guidelines have been causing serious waves within the influencer marketing industry as the key to success with the method is that it does not look or feel like marketing. Brands want to exploit the ability to advertise in a more natural way but also do not want to run the risk of finding themselves exposed as misleading potential customers which could damage their reputation. This sudden focus on imposing guidelines within the industry is a clear indicator that UK regulators are keen to gain control over content and those in breach of the new rules will be subject to legal action should they choose not to comply.
There has been endless criticism of the new guidelines already, and not just from within the influencer community.
They’re Confusing for Consumers
The CMA places a focus on the significance of disclosing gifts and disclosing any relationships with a brand in the last year or so. Some have argued that disclosing gifts is confusing for consumers because the influencer hasn’t technically been paid. However, as far as the CMA is concerned, gifts help to establish a relationship between a brand and an influencer. Any relationship between a brand and an influencer thereby negates the objectivity of the influencer and, as such, any content produced about that brand by the influencer is promotional and, therefore, should be disclosed.
Where are the updated guidelines for other forms of media?
The CMA argue that the vast majority of consumers can recognise undisclosed advertising in other branches of the media-just not within Influencer Marketing. Weird right? Magazines don’t have to disclose when their journalists are sent on lavish all-expenses-paid trips to feature in their publication but a young influencer who has worked hard to build their following must disclose everything. This is unfair, and something that authorities should address in the near future.
They aren’t comprehensive enough
Yes, it would take daily updates to ensure the guide was 100% comprehensive, but the current publication just seems a bit vague and definitely doesn’t cover every angle. Theres also some confusion as to what is and isn’t law. These new guidelines aren’t technically laws, but they are circulated in the same space as such, therefore suggesting they must be obeyed or risk prosecution-a little confusing don’t you think?
So what do you think of the new guidelines? Personally I'm actually enjoying seeing influencers on my Instagram disclosing their paid for posts and gifted items-and I thought it all seemed like a whole lot of fuss over nothing a first. I think this new level of transparency really helps audiences to understand how our favourite bloggers live these lavish lifestyles with a seemingly endless budget-90% of it is all free! Social media has a lot to answer for in terms of setting unrealistic expectations. Hopefully the new rules are a step in the right direction-we don't all have brand sponsors and professional photographers to help us achieve flawless Instagram profiles!