What could be the impact of new ASCI guidelines on Influencer Marketing?

Influencer Marketing is a $100 million industry in India now, and brands of all kinds – big or small – are benefiting from using influencers & content creators to drive their business objectives. With the rise in awareness about digital marketing, spurred on to a great extent by the pandemic and the lockdown across the globe, we have seen an increase in brands and consumers jumping onto social media.

To compliment the consumers & the brands, there is also a new rise of influencers and content creators who are jumping up on every nook & corner of the internet. Content creation variety now offers everything from fashion/lifestyle to fitness to entrepreneurship lessons and each type of content can be consumed via static photos, videos – long or short and audio (podcasts). With the sheer amount of creators that have got good exposure on the internet, it’s a good time to be a content creator/influencer.

With an oversupply of creators/influencers and an influx of brands who want to do influencer marketing for their brands, there is something for everyone. Whatever your budget, whatever your objective and whatever your brand – there is a relevant content creator who is willing to create content at a decent amount of fee. Over the last few years, brands have opened up their purse strings to spend more freely on influencer marketing as a means to reach their target audiences with a different approach than the traditional paid media ads. Influencer marketing has created a market for itself, offering quality content, adding credibility to their products/services (serving that of a digital brand ambassador) and in many cases a good return on investment.

The fact that influencer marketing has been unregulated so far, we have seen some brands sneakily get away with things that would not be considered ethical if it were to be shown in a TVC or an OOH. The one that came to light was the Fyre Festival, promoted by all big international artists only to have consumers conned. There are multiple smaller ones that happen regularly but aren’t big enough to make the headlines. Discussions about having some sort of guidelines in India have been in the talk for long and the suggested guidelines by ASCI are a welcome move.

However, every coin has 2 sides, and the same way the new ASCI guidelines will have both pros and cons.
Here are some things that might get impacted in the new era with guidelines for influencer marketing:

  • Moral Responsibility Ownership :
    The guidelines state that the influencer/content creator will need to take the responsibility of the claims being made by the brand, which means they will need to take more time to evaluate the product/service, actually use it and then promote it. This will require Influencers to understand and research about the brand, their claims, and only then promote it. These people have the influence over millions of people and the guidelines are asking them to be more responsible for this privilege. Content creators/Influencers will also have more control over what they actually want to talk about the product/service and hopefully the brands will also take this up more ethically, since they will not hold command over an influencer/content creator just because a monetary transaction is happening.
  • Calling an Ad an Ad :
    Digital consumers today are smart enough to understand what is an Advert vs what is organic, and hence brands are willing to pay more to get their promotional material to look as organic as possible. All of us have the habit of skipping ads from our childhood when we used to watch our favourite TV shows. We either used to change the channel to something else or mute the TV while ads used to play. Similarly the general audience have a tendency to skip sponsored posts, story, video, etc on social media as well. With these guidelines kicking in, we might see the overall engagement and reach with influencers drop and might see it get the same status quo as a paid media ad on digital
  • Quality Content will shine :
    Even though we skipped the ads, there were some iconic ads which we still remember and cherish. That’s because the concept of that ad was strong, advertisers made it relatable or something which was extremely creative. These guidelines will make influencers and advertisers think and come up with interesting content which grabs attention of their audience. This will lead to some amazing work and content being created in the influencer campaigns. Since, advertisers don’t want their content to be skipped and the influencer doesn’t want his or her engagement to fall., both will work harder at making these campaigns more interesting.
  • Skepticism will return :
    It took awhile for brands to jump on the influencer marketing bandwagon, and it might go back to being that with newer guidelines coming in. Brands may lessen the number of influencer campaigns they run in a year. A lot of brands invest in influencer marketing because of how they can subtly advertise/promote their brand and an outright marketing promotion status may make them more skeptic in general.

These guidelines will be like a double-edged sword for creators as well. While they will get a lot more say in putting out content that will work on their pages, influencers/creators who are doing a lot of branded content might see a hit in their engagement & reach numbers. Quality content will continue to win nonetheless.

We believe that while these guidelines are necessary, they should not be extremely stringent so as to avoid creating a dent in the overall influencer marketing industry that is growing at a faster pace than ever

By Divyansh Gala & Kunal Khandelwal,

Outreach Team, SoCheers