New ASCI Guidelines for Influencer Marketing

Read to know how the new Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) guidelines will impact the influencer marketing strategy of MSMEs..


Past few years, influencer marketing has witnessed an unexpected rise in India thanks to the high consumption of social media, deluge of affordable smartphones, and data plans. According to digital marketing agency AdLift, India’s influencer market is pegged at $75-150 million a year, as compared to the global market of $1.75 billion. Marketers are increasingly shifting to invest in influencer marketing knowing that an influencer is armed with a huge follower base where brands can be amplified authentically. 

Why ASCI had to set guidelines for influencer marketing ?

As more and more Indians get connected with the internet and social media they interact with a plethora of brands daily, which is somewhat erasing the lines between promotional content and user-generated content. People nowadays, especially the Gen Z generation, follow influencers with their heart and soul since, for many, their influence is a stark reflection of their personality and behaviour. When an influencer endorses the benefits of a brand or service in his/her social media handles, followers get swayed from the brand stories they create. Till date, influencers in their social media posts do not reveal that it is a paid activity, the content of the ad is being decided by the brand that might convey unrealistic claims to the audience via the influencer’s voice. Many alcohol brands have exploited this ‘unrevealing of paid media’ and have broken the cocoon of surrogate advertising to openly advertise their alcohol brands in collaboration with stand-up comedians. To safeguard the interests of consumers, influencers, and marketeers, influencer marketing has come under the scanner of advertising watchdog ASCI to set up guidelines for bringing transparency in communications.

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According to digital marketing agency AdLift, India's influencer market is pegged at $75-150 million a year, as compared to the global market of $1.75 billion.

What are the ASCI guidelines? 

The Advertising Standards Council of India ( ASCI) was established in 1985, it is a self-regulatory voluntary organisation of the advertising industry in India. It is a non-Government body.Below are the ASCI guidelines for influencer marketing that will be effective from 14 June 2021:  

  • Influencers are required to place disclosures in a manner that should not be hidden under a heap of hashtags or links. 
  • If ads or videos are posted on Instagram stories or Snapchat, then putting a disclosure label superimposed over the content is compulsory. Disclosure terms such as advertisements, ads, sponsored, collaboration, partnership, employee, and gift can be used.
  • Videos lasting for 15 seconds or less, the disclosure label must stay for a minimum of 3 seconds.
  • For Videos lasting for two minutes or more the disclosure label must stay for the entire duration of the section in which the brand is promoted or its features and benefits are mentioned. 
  • For videos of duration more than 15 seconds, but less than 2 minutes, the disclosure label should stay for one-third the length of the video.
  • A disclosure is required if there is any material connection or transaction between the brand and influencer. The material connection is not confined to money but if the brand offers any free or discounted products or services or other perks and then if the influencer mentions one of its products or services, disclosure is mandatory. 

How the new ASCI guidelines on influencer marketing will impact the businesses? 

When influencers do not reveal that promotion is paid, it gives brands the benefit to make it look like an earned media, which is synonymous with ‘word of mouth marketing’ showcasing that the influencer is willingly promoting the brand without being approached by the brand. Influencers smoothened the tone to make it look less of a promotion as it would reduce the engagement with content, which is bad news for influencers as well. According to a study by Neilsen, 92 percent of consumers trust earned media such as word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family or influencers over other forms of advertising. Since, the labels of disclosures were not mandated, brands had the power to dictate the influencer about the promotion content, therefore, disseminating exaggerated claims. Even though social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube have in-built features to disclose if an influencer is posting sponsored content, influencers could easily get away by not revealing it as a paid activity.

The guidelines will help brands to do intent-based marketing. Influencer content showing the disclaimer of a brand promoted will help viewers to decide on a purchase. If they engage with your ad further it will imply, he/she has the purchase intent. 

Shalmoli Sarkar
Shalmoli Sarkar
An MBA in marketing and a BTech in chemical engineering, Shalmoli writes on marketing strategies and business technology for new and aspiring entrepreneurs.

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