Time for Disclosure: NZ’s New Influencer Marketing Guidelines

By Katie Smith (PR Account Executive)

Influencer Guidelines v2

It’s a known fact that influencers have the power to affect consumer decisions en masse. From global celebrities like Selena Gomez to local content creators like How to Dad (Jordan Watson) and reality stars like Matilda Rice, we see the power of celebrity influence every day.

According to Ad Week, the influencer marketing industry has a global estimated worth of $2 billion. This figure is predicted to rise, reaching $10 billion by 2020.

But it’s no longer just the Oprah Winfreys and Kim Kardashians of the world who are making a living off endorsing products.

Everyday mums, local radio hosts, sports fanatics, home bakers and even slime makers are regularly approached by brands to weave product placements into the lives they document on social media. These influencers reel in the cash while their followings remain largely unaware that the content they are engaging with is in fact advertising.

The astronomical growth of this new marketing avenue has promoted law tightening from advertising authorities around the globe.

In the US, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sent warning letters to multiple influencers and has even filed lawsuits against brands, citing their lack of disclosure. In Australia, the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA), recently introduced new guidelines that require influencers to include “#ad” or “#spon” disclaimers to their paid content or face fines.

New Zealand is swiftly catching up. In late February, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) updated their guidelines, stating that influencers must make it clear when a post is sponsored. The ASA identified two points to help distinguish whether the post is “technically” sponsored by a brand:

- Does the brand have a degree of control over the content in the post?
- Has the brand paid the influencer in any of the following forms: through money, gifts, a free service, or business opportunity?

If the answer is yes to either of these questions, it’s important to start disclosing. Otherwise, it can appear as though brands are attempting to pull wool over the eyes of their consumers.

It’s also not enough to just include hashtags such as #sp or #collab at the bottom of a post where they’re hard to see. The new ASA guidelines require that sponsored posts must be clearly identifiable as an advert.

Whilst not catastrophic as yet, the consequences of not following these guidelines include formal warnings from the ASA.

We have also recently seen a rise in highly publicized shamings from the public, and in turn the media, directed at parties who get it wrong. When celebrity Scott Disick accidentally included the instructions that Fitness Xpose had given him in a paid Instagram post, Twitter blew up, responding with over 43,000 retweets and 400 negative comments: “Fitness Xpose, integrity gone out the window.”

Late last year, Kiwi bloggers Maria Foy (Happy Mum Happy Child) and Melissa Jack (The Best Nest) were harshly criticised by multiple national news outlets for not disclosing that they were paid to plug Kmart on 1 News. The retailer couldn’t have predicted the severe consequence they would face for paying influencers a small fee to endorse their brand – appearing untrustworthy.

The intensity of these reactions reflects the high levels of investment and trust built between influencers and their fans. As this article in the New York Times explains, people feel personally connected to those they follow on social media, and hence personally betrayed by both brands and influencers when they get deceived.

Influencers and brands both profit from followers’ trust in influencers, and as a result, we need to be careful to not hurt the authenticity of their content when we partner with them.

All in all, it’s important we take the road of full transparency. Disclose. Be honest. Partner with influencers who are a natural fit and can genuinely weave your products or services into their content. FCB Media is here to help ensure everything is fully disclosed – otherwise, it could come back to bite us all.

Date: April 03, 2018