The advertising industry recently had its boat rocked by the publication of the Advertising Code of Practice for Social Media Marketing (“Code”). The Code comes pursuant to the industry steering from traditional (newsprint & glossy magazine) marketing towards digital marketing. It is intended to provide clear set of rules around online marketing for purposes of protecting consumers and to promote the publication of authentic content by marketers/influencers.
In terms of the Code, complete transparency is required when published content is part of a paid advertising campaign or is sponsored. This is to ensure that consumers are not misled into believing that the post is an organic social media post and the unsolicited opinion of the influencer. The rationale is to guard against deceptive and misleading content including deceptive claims about products or services which influencers have not used and/or tested personally.
A classic case of a social media marketing blunder is that of Scott Dissick where he posted a caption exactly as sent by the client, see link for complete details [https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2016/05/111399/scott-disick-bootea-instagram]. This shows absence of authenticity and merely posting for purposes of chasing the cheese!
The Code further places an obligation on brands and marketers to conclude written contracts with paid influencers which must include (a) details of the brief, (b) the remuneration payable (whether in cash or kind), (c) oblige the influencer to publish own content or to clearly credit the content creator and (d) the marketing rules and regulations applicable to the specific industry for the influencers knowledge and compliance.
The big question remains… What happens in the event of non-compliance with the Code? The Code itself is silent in this regard. However the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”), in its capacity as the gatekeeper of the integrity of the advertising industry, would lodge a compliant with the brand informing it of the alleged breach and request information around the campaign. This explains the need to have a signed agreement to allow the ASA to evaluate and investigate the value of the campaign and decide on the appropriate punitive action. The common penalty is usually a fine. To put it into perspective, the fine payable may be equivalent to the amount paid to the influencer and/or the proceeds made by the brand from the campaign. Influencers are encouraged to observe these rules as brands could hold them liable for actions taken against the brands by the ASA. This ofcouse, is a recipe for a very sour social media battle between the brands and influencers who cry faul.
There’s been an observation around compliance with the code by online personalities and it’s suprising to note the blatent disregard of the Code by most brands and influencers. Which begs the question… Are brands and influencers unbothered by the Code or are they waiting to see the ASA flex it’s muscles?
A copy of the Code is accessible on the ASA website.