Influencers operating on social media platforms must label sponsored or paid posts with hashtags such as #ad, #collab, #promo, #sponsored, and #partnership, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) said in the draft guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media.
Issued on Monday, the rules say that it is the responsibility of the influencer and the advertiser they have partnered with to ensure that their promotional content comes with a prominent disclosure saying that the post is an advertisement.
Only the aforementioned hashtags should be used to make the disclosure, the guidelines said while noting that the labels should be clear, upfront -- i.e. without requiring any clicks or further interaction -- and written in either English or the original language of the post.
The aim of the rule is to help the audience differentiate between an advertisement and editorial/independent user-generated content.
“With lines between content and advertisements becoming blurry, it is critical that consumers must be able to distinguish when something is being promoted with an intention to influence their opinion or behaviour for an immediate or eventual commercial gain. Consumers may view promotional messages without realising the commercial intent of these, and that becomes inherently misleading,” the non-government, self-regulatory body added.
In the guidelines, ASCI has noted that blanket disclosures in a single spot, like profile bio, will not be considered valid and even stories, videos without captions, audio and live streams must have labels -- either superimposed on the content itself or verbally announced.
Plus, the influencer should conduct due diligence about the claims the advertising brand is asking them to make, and not use filters that exaggerate the effect of the claim, it said.
The draft guidelines remain available for review and feedback from all stakeholders until March 8, 2021. Post the deadline, ASCI will take note of the inputs and issue the final rules, which will go into effect from April 15, 2021, and cover all promotional posts on social media. Following this, the council says, it will issue notices to advertisers/brand owners and influencers who are found to be serving unlabelled, misleading ads in violation of the guidelines.