How do Influencers perceive the ASCI code on Influencer advertising

As the 14 June deadline for the code compliance nears, we find out what influencers have to say.

Mumbai:  The 14 June deadline for the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) code on influencer advertising to be implemented is just around the corner, even as we reach out to some of the primary stakeholders- the social media influencers themselves. We share their take on the rules that will govern all their future branded collaborations (and already too), with creative content creators being popular and credible voices of society.

While most agree that the Influencer advertising guidelines released last month has transparency at its core to help customers discriminate between a paid content and an organic post, the underlying concern that emerged was whether the new code proposes to shift the onus (of falling foul of the law) on the content creators more than the brand.

To fully understand the implications of the guidelines on the fledgling Influencer marketing industry, it is only fair that we listen in to the influencer’s side- especially now that the deadline to implement the code looms large. spoke to some of the leading influencers from disparate genres like Fashion, Tech & Social satire to understand their thoughts on how they perceive the guidelines, whether they have started implementing them, and if they have noticed any changes in their traction or engagement.

Fashion & Beauty content creator Sakshi Sindwani, owner of the Instagram handle @stylemeupwithsakshi with over four lakh followers believes the guidelines will enable content creators to make an informed decision on the 'what' and 'how' of branded content, and relevance of collaborations. “However, there is a rider in terms of engagement,” she says, “It impacts the numbers. So, content creators and brands will have to go the extra mile to ensure that content is creative and integrated, rather than exclusive. Furthermore, creators will need to identify what makes their audience remain loyal.”

Comedy content creator & popular Social satirist Saloni Gaur @salonayyy aka Naazma Aapi aka ‘pados wali aunty’ and a plethora of other satirical characters, with 5.5 lakhs followers on Instagram says: “A few brands don’t like to put labels like paid promotion on your content, it reduces engagement and people don’t like to consume branded content.”

Known for her biting, humorous take on everyday issues and for calling a spade a spade, Saloni agrees that it makes sense from a consumer point of view as it is important to maintain transparency and authenticity. “While the labels might impact the viewership/ engagement, creators need to believe that at the core of creation lies relevant and organic content. And content is king! Creators hold the power in their hands to make it engaging and entertaining for the audience,” she adds.

According to Tech Blogger Shlok Srivastava aka Techburner, with 4.78 lakh followers on Instagram it is a step in the right direction, however, “the nuances of guidelines are not thought through for different platforms or genres.”

The guidelines define ‘influencers’ as those having access to an audience with the power to affect the purchasing opinion and decisions of the consumers. “Social media is a vast pool with so many creators. Some of them are sceptical about the implementation of these guidelines for the kind of content that they create. For instance, in a space like Tech or Auto, 90 per cent of the products are given by the brands for reviews owing to the credibility that we hold. So, if we label such content as paid or branded, it’ll create confusion amongst the audience and they’ll doubt our authenticity which will destroy the whole purpose of establishing regulations,” says Srivasatava.

Pulp Strategy founder & MD Ambika Sharma says, the reception to the reining in by ASCI has been a mixed bucket. While most Influencers understand that the move is a positive one, they have concerns around the impact it would have.

“We are currently working with over three dozen influencers for different campaigns, the sentiment is mostly positive. There is a lack of awareness and we are building compliance alongside campaign execution," she says.

IPLIX Media co-founder Neel Gogia states that as with every new initiative a debate is necessary to create a sustainable solution.

“The lines are a little blurred. For instance, a non-monetary association under which an influencer shares an unbiased product review will be labelled as an Ad, leaving consumers in a tough spot. This will be difficult to implement for a tech or an auto influencer as they cannot buy every product for review as they are of high monetary value, and in fact, not all the reviews are positive as well so they cannot be labelled as an Ad," he says.

Furthermore, Gogia says that the current recommendations might not be aligned with the objective of organic and value-added content creation with genuine product integration. “For a YouTube content creator with long-format vlogs labeling the entire integration section as an Ad will lead the audience to ignore the content even if it is adding value to them”, he adds, saying that we will just have to wait and watch how this unfolds.

In recent times, a significant portion of the marketing budget of brands or businesses is allocated to social media advertising. Influencer marketing has witnessed a surge in India, especially in the pandemic period. Nielsen studies have shown that home-bound consumers during the pandemic have led to a 60 per cent spike in the amount of video content watched globally.

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