How the ASA lays the foundations for influencer marketing

by | Mar 12, 2020 | Analysis, Public Relations

Social media platforms are growing at such fast rates that they can be difficult to regulate—and consumers, influencers and marketers alike are experimenting with content—but those involved in sharing illegal or dangerous content must be held to account.

Last month, London’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) took a massive step forward in the policing of content on social media by officially introducing to Instagram a new monitoring technology to identify and report ads that promote Botox and other botulinum toxin injections in the UK.

This move enforces the total ban on the promotion of Botox on social media that the ASA announced in December 2019 and, in the interest of protecting consumers and their mental health, is a positive measure to reduce unethical activity across platforms including flagging companies that are blatantly disregarding the industry’s regulations.

Simplification of industry guidelines

But the regulatory body wasn’t finished there. Only six days later, the ASA, along with the CMA, issued a condensed version of their guide to ad labelling and brand partnership disclosure on social media.

While the amended guide didn’t contain any updated or new rules for brands and influencers, it did provide content creators with a mass of resources that clearly outlined how to post correctly and avoid falling foul of the guidelines.

This came after increasing calls for more clarification from the governing bodies—our recent whitepaper found that more than half (56 percent) of marketers in the UK and the US felt the ASA or FTC guidelines, although clear, did need further development.

Influencer marketing before the ASA rules

However, the news wasn’t completely welcomed by everyone involved in influencer marketing. For some, the updated guidance—which came less than six months after the ASA and Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) issued a stern reminder about the rules of influencer marketing—is yet another example of the over-legislation of the sector by industry watchdogs.

But those holding these views are being short-sighted and forgetting the beneficial impact the ASA has had on our sector.

Before the introduction of regulations, influencer marketing was rightly labelled as the wild west. Brands and influencers alike were testing out this new medium of advertising, pushing the boundaries and—in some rare cases—engaging in shady practices and outright fraud. The sector lacked order and attracted some criticism from the media, consumers and politicians.

The impact of the ASA on influencer marketing

Fast forward to 2020 and—thanks to the ASA—#ad has become synonymous with influencer marketing and brands are clear on the rules that govern the sector. Our recent whitepaper found that 88 percent of UK marketers felt the ASA guidelines on labelling paid-for influencer content were clear. This view is also shared by content creators, with 87 percent of UK influencers feeling confident in their understanding of the ASA labelling rules.

Now—partly due to this increased clarity—brands and influencers are changing the way they work with one another. We are seeing more influencers and brands enter into exclusive extended partnerships, where ASA regulations will be adhered to over a long-term campaign.

Similarly, we are now witnessing influencers playing a key role in more holistic, integrated campaigns across a variety of mediums. Now the trust in influencers is on the up, brands are looking to integrate influencers into their above-the-line activity. A case in point is BooHoo, I Saw It First and Misguided who have been incorporating influencers into their wider marketing campaign to boost its visibility.

The ASA has transformed the influencer marketing sector for the better. Now the foundations are in place, brands and influencers feel more comfortable exploring new advertising opportunities, such as long-term partnerships or licensing content for above-the-line activity, while remaining aligned with industry rules.

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Mary Keane-Dawson
Mary Keane-Dawson is CEO of Takumi.

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