Will content marketing still ride on influencer channel if their posts are tagged 'sponsored'?

ASCI's bid to frame guidelines for social media influencers promoting brands and products has created a buzz. BuzzInContent.com talks to experts to find out if this move would force brands to withdraw from such paid partnerships

Akanksha Nagar
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Brands for years have been associating themselves with social media influencers, getting closer to their audiences in a subtle way and avoiding invasive marketing techniques and obsolete commercial messages. Brands today undoubtedly use influencers just like ambassadors.

But ASCI’s (The Advertising Standard Council of India) recent announcement to work on disclosure norms for social media influencers promoting products on the internet have put forth a question: Will influencer channels go out of content initiatives of brands if their posts are tagged 'sponsored'?

BuzzInContent.com talked to a few content specialists from agencies and brands to find out what’s in store.

The council plans to frame these guidelines on the basis of international best practices so that users can make informed decisions on purchases. The body is likely to release them in the third quarter of this year. The guidelines to include rightful disclosure of paid partnership and different types of promotions/collaborations, which the council shared on Twitter, will bring more transparency and help protect consumer interest as people trust what bloggers/vloggers recommend.

Karan Kumar

“It's only fair that communication is honest and transparent from influencers with fellow followers. There's absolutely no harm in brands up-fronting the fact that some posts are paid partnership.  Brands while working with celebrities convey the larger audience who is watching about the commercial relationship, and it works,” said Karan Kumar, Chief Brand and Marketing Officer, Fabindia.

Kumar said where there is a certain commercial activity involved, it should be transparently mentioned as a paid promotion. And at other places, the influencer may still go ahead and talk about a certain product or service experience that he/she had without having been paid by the brand.

Shradha Agarwal

Shradha Agarwal, COO at Grapes Digital, said influencers with such high reach acting as a source of awareness for brands and products and their capability to create content in less production cost and different styles always is a merit. Such a move would not impact brands’ decision in associating themselves with influencers.

Kalyan Kumar

Kalyan Kumar, Co-founder and CEO of Social Catalyzers, said it is unlikely that brands would move away from influencer channel in their content initiatives after this announcement.

“Such norms are present already, globally. For brands, such a regulation and move will bring in more credibility to the engagement with influencers,” he added.  

Madhavi Irani

Madhavi Irani, COO, Nykaa, said that with more than 80% of millennials looking up to 'experts' and influencers for advice and guidance, greater transparency is the need of the hour. Brands owe it to the general public to let them know if the partnership is being paid or it is a genuine review put by the influencers.  

In unison, experts agreed with the advertisement governing body’s decision.

Irani said, “I think ASCI policing is a step in the right direction. It shouldn't be seen as a big brother move but actually a necessary step to protect consumers, brands and the advertising ecosystem at large. Today, influencer marketing is everywhere on social media; the one place most consumers get their information, and no one is calling it out as an ad.”

There are 300mn+ users on Facebook, 265mn + on YouTube and 75mn+ on Instagram, who are being exposed to influencer content. Today there is pie of audience who is very well aware and know about the mechanics of marketing and advertising. They can easily distinguish between paid/commercial partnerships versus organic content. But there are many who take the book by the cover. They are not too savvy with marketing rules and hence would need to be told clearly about the paid partnership. Placing paid partnership tags on digital will not help 100% but not placing them is like cheating the less-savvy audience, said Agarwal.

ASCI influencer channel sponsored