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The new ASCI rulebook has certainly stirred up the pot. Not only for influencers, but brands and audiences too. In a stride towards transparency of organic and sponsored content, the magnifying glass of the law is now closer than its ever been.

In the relentless pursuit for maximum reach and digital commercializing, social media marketing and influencer marketing have taken a few wrong turns. It’s simply because the line between organic/genuine content and sponsored advertised content started dwindling over the past few years. While some think of influencers as simply social media content creators, others see them as digital points of authority in many affairs. This, comes with a responsibility. We might follow them for their genuine recommendations and reviews  sometimes we tend to miss the paid promotions in between.

How ASCI’s new influencer rulebook will affect your social media life

ASCI

While some call it creative advertising, the ASCI thinks different.  The new policies set in place by the ASCI rule that all brand sponsored posts or paid promotions, will have to be done with a prior disclaimer. As a move towards developing a transparent marketplace for all parties concerned – brands, influencers and audiences, the workings of social media marketing will be experiencing a big change. For all we know, this may only be the first of many gears to be set in motion. We asked industry leaders what they think about the new ASCI policy.

Anuja Deora Sanctis, Founder, Filter Copy.

The industry is undoubtedly facing a dynamic shift with these new guidelines. It’s not just to show how the digital platform functions but also how integral it has become in terms of brand promotion. With influencer marketing, it now becomes clear how important the SoV of these key opinion leaders is in creating this trickle-down effect of a brand’s ideas to the community. I find this challenging yet an absolutely necessary step in ensuring clarity of communication and transparency of collaborations. Brands and agencies alike will now need to create more interesting ways to engage a more informed audience and understand how to leverage the influencer-audience relationship in more creative ways.

Komal Lath, Founder Marcom Firm Tute Consult

Pandemic and subsequent lockdown was a real shot in the arm for the social media influencer business. It also necessitated socially responsible behavior and the right moral framework for both – brands as well as the influencer community. On the bright side, premier body like ASCI drafting rules for the business lends the much needed real-world legitimacy for the influencers at large. However, for a content creator the fact that they have to declare if the content is a paid assignment potentially jeopardizes the way it will be consumed by their followers. At one end it tests the influencer’s creative abilities to make a paid project engaging for their followers and at the other end it potentially puts their efficacy in question. On the brand’s side, there would be some respite since the same content creator working with competing brands within a short span of time could be put to rest. All in all, it’s good to see a “jaago grahak jaago” kind of an initiative which only brings forth the ability of social media and their celebrities to influence consumer purchase decisions.

ASCI

Rasna Bhasin, Celebrity Influencer

Personally when it comes to the new guidelines I actually don’t find anything wrong with them. As somebody who does a bit of sponsored content – I have always found it necessary to inform my audience that the post is sponsored. I have always refrained from promoting products which claim technicalities – whether it’s making your teeth whiter in ten days, or your skin brighter – since I don’t resonate with them I don’t really promote them. Also when I acknowledge the many gifts or products sent my way – they’re acknowledged in a way that the audience is aware the those said products are gifted. I think since we are directly interacting with consumers – we do have a moral responsibility of being honest with them. There is no shame in getting paid for promoting a product – and there shouldn’t be any in labelling it as sponsored content!

Varun Duggirala, Creator, Content Chief, The Glitch

I  look at this policy from two points of view: As a creator and someone who works with brands in my role as an entrepreneur. And from both ends, this is a step in the right direction. This new policy is an excellent first step towards further legitimizing the influencer industrial complex as a bonafide industry from the creator POV. And while this needs a lot of refinement, it will move us towards a point of responsible creation and enhance influencers’ rights and their business interests in the days to come. From a Brand perspective, it will give brands the necessary guardrails in how they engage with creators in their campaigns and make influencers a more robust and refined part of their marketing mix.

ASCI

Sherry Shroff, Youtuber & Blogger

I certainly feel like the industry needs a stronger structure with better guidelines. When it comes to guidelines set in place for influencers, I actually don’t see a lot of them self-regulating and using paid-partnership tags or sponsored tags. On the other side of the fence, a lot of brands out there actually don’t want to disclose the nature of their partnership or the post. This is simply because, when a viewer sees this ‘paid partnership’ tag, they tend to be reluctant about investing into that product or service knowing that it wasn’t a genuine recommendation. Overall, I do believe that the system needs to evolve and become more transparent. For a viewer, there needs to be a direct distinction and a better understanding of what’s organic and paid content. For creators, I think its ethically very important to maintain this transparency with their viewers. This is certainly for the better of all parties concerned and I’m sure things will be getting more and more transparent in the future. I also feel like these guidelines also need to be backed with proper laws for them to be 100% effective.

Riaan George, Luxury Journalist and Content Creator

I feel like I’ve had to bear the brunt of some unethical and blind promotions. Through my career as a content creator, I’ve always tried to make my content as real, organic and original as possible. Even if it was a paid collaboration, I have not declared it because, there’s always been a trust factor that I’m doing something ethically and providing an experiential feedback and a review. This also naturally comes forth because of my background as a journalist. However, everyone hasn’t followed the same standards and I think this was inevitable. If this does happen, I’m happy to oblige with ASCI policies because at the end of the day one has to work within a government set framework. It isn’t an ideal situation for me, because even if I’ve had paid projects, I’ve always packaged it very wisely so that it doesn’t come across as an advertisement.

All images: Courtesy Getty Images

Mikhail Gomes
Senior Features Writer
A watch aficionado, Gomes also enjoys learning about fine whiskies, and one day hopes to establish his own menswear label. At Lifestyle Asia India, he writes on watches, menswear, auto and tech.