Should social media influencers come under regulatory purview to ensure fair advertising standards?

Nov 30, 2023
Should social media influencers come under regulatory purview to ensure fair advertising standards?
Experts say since the industry is based on trust it is up to influencers to adhere to the existing guidelines

As more brands move to influencer marketing to promote their products and services, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has found that in the digital advertising space 22% of ad-related complaints involved influencers. “It said that 99.4% of advertisements processed for influencer guidelines were found to be in violation. Influencer cases between last year and this year form [around] 25 per cent of our overall cases. We’re seeing people increasing compliance but we’re also seeing large number of cases that are non-complaint. Influencer cases are certainly a big part of our work,” Manisha Kapoor, CEO, ASCI said.

A July report by Neilsen showed that the return on investment (RoI) for influencer marketing is at par with mainstream media today, and the industry is poised to grow at a CAGR of 25% to reach Rs 2,200 crore by 2025 from Rs 900 crore in 2021.

Consumers surely place their trust in influencers when it comes to reviews and opinions. “Influencer marketing is a space in which trust is at the core; thus, the content needs to be authentic and presented transparently. Influencers are under the same umbrella as celebrities; hence, they must ensure that the content posted on social media platforms is devoid of any false information so that consumers receive accurate information,” Preety Singh, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Boomlet Group, an influencer management agency said.

According to Pranav Agarwal, co-founder YouthBeat, a digital marketing agency who has onboarded clients like P&G, Viacom 18, Century Ply, BMW, Colorbar, Flipkart, Tinder, Myntra, etc., influencers should follow guidelines since consumers are looking at them and making purchase decisions. “The industry that influencers are representing also matters. When it comes to fashion, the worse that you can imagine is very rare. In industries like finance and health, you have to be very careful as an influencer. You cannot give wrong information. People can make purchase decisions out of it,” Agarwal adds.

He stresses that the industry needs to be put into a particular framework. “For certain industries, guidelines will come as a law. Brands should collaborate with influencers that are following these laws and that should be the mandate for a lot of them and the idea is that it should be pushed through their legal teams and marketing teams,” he said.

Sonam Chandwani, Managing Partner KS Legal & Associates feels that ASCI’s expanded definition of ‘celebrities’ is an acknowledgment of the powerful role that influencers play in shaping consumer behaviour today. “This extension blurs the line between traditional celebrities and digital influencers, placing both under the same ethical and legal lens. The new ‘Conduct due diligence’ clause signals a maturing industry, holding influencers and celebrities accountable for the products they endorse. This is a significant step toward ensuring that consumer trust isn't compromised, no matter the platform or the size of the following,” she says.

Singh believes in encouraging influencers to adhere to guidelines and refrain from making misleading claims. “Trust forms the bedrock of the influencer marketing ecosystem—a trust forged among content creators, their followers, agencies and brands. Through campaigns that are both authentic and transparent, we must uphold this fundamental trust,” she said.