Kartik Kala

Business Head of TopSocial India

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ASCI Rules' Impact On Future Of Influencer Marketing

The fact that guidelines are in place is evidence that influencer marketing has developed itself as one of the main components of the brand marketing portfolio

Over the past few years, influencer marketing has experienced steady growth in India. This new form of marketing has become the hot new strategy for brands in recent years that want to expand their reach, increase brand awareness, and increase conversions. Brands have collaborated with the transformers of social media over the last few years to stay ahead in the digital market.

But with the latest guidelines for influencer advertising issued by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), the influencer marketing world has switched to panic mode. In its announcement, ASCI confirmed that the guidelines for influencer ads on digital media would be available for feedback until March 8, 2021, for all stakeholders, including industry, digital influencers as well as customers. The final guidance will be released by ASCI by 31 March 2021, based on feedback and input. All promotional posts published on or after 15 April 2021 will be subject to this guidance.

Is this the Influencer Marketing apocalypse? How do we move forward? Is this the boon or the bane?

The evolution of Influencer Marketing has been extremely rapid. However, termed as the ‘Latest’ in the marketing vertical, when you think about it, for longer than many of us can remember, the idea of influencer marketing has been around. People relied on what they saw in newspaper advertisements, radio, and television for product reviews before there were social media.

But even the early advertisers found that the buying choices of customers could be affected by including famous individuals in their advertising. Marketers spend more time and advertising resources on influencer marketing because they are beginning to see the potential to partner with powerful voices to build brand recognition and approval for their own brand.

The question, ‘how do we regulate this industry, however, has been engraved in every marketers’ brain.

The Stakeholders

Influencer marketing has grown in popularity since the pandemic, with marketers changing their attention from larger-than-life advertisements to online or social media influencers to advertise goods and raise the brand value.

When we look at the engagement of influencer marketing, the brand, the influencer and the influencer's audience that the brand is seeking to target are the three stakeholders whose interests we are concerned with. And when a major industry body, such as the ASCI, agrees that guidelines for influencers and the influencer marketing community are appropriate, it illustrates how the market has advanced and achieved mainstream status in the wider advertising space. These guidelines not only streamline the room and provide guidance, but also ensure that the influencer group has an additional sense of social responsibility.

The fact that guidelines are in place is evidence that influencer marketing has developed itself as one of the main components of the brand marketing portfolio. This motion would help to shield influencers from the reputation factor. Like anything new, there will be a steep learning curve, but there will be a win-win proposition that arises from an iterative process of what is possible and what benefits the viewer. Audiences have a right to know whether they are being bombarded with commercial messages. Without too many curbs, influencers have the freedom to share their views and a desire for artistic expression. It is important to strike a balance between these two criteria.

But will this step reduce consumer trust in promoted content and affect the confidence and accessibility of influencers of consumer sentiment? No. This move will allow open and honest interactions between brands and influencers, while also protecting customer, brand, and the influencers’ interests.

Unlike a celebrity endorser, which is a typical "one face," brands are now searching for reach and interaction from a small few or even multiple influencers at the same time. What will be the effect of the guidelines on influencers' rapid growth as brand ambassadors?

There’s hardly anything to worry about! These guidelines will lead to the establishment of more long-term and meaningful relationships. This is an excellent opportunity for the ecosystem to make a course change, which will help influencers gain more credibility, confidence, and interaction.

The new guidelines would enable clients to approach influencer marketing in a more organized and long-term manner, rather than as an episodic and event-driven operation. Influencer marketing has remained a new concept with zero regulation. All three stakeholders of the industry, Influencers, Brands and Customers, have remained uninformed on many occasions leaving certain grey areas unanswered. With the latest guidelines, the influencer world is chasing its end but the beginning.

We are moving into a more organized, structured and reliable world. ASCI's newly released influencer marketing guidelines will open a wealth of new opportunities for the rapidly developing field, resulting in long-term positive results for the industry. It is the step towards a more regulated industry - for the brand, the influencer and the audience. A step towards the future of influencer marketing.

The author is Kartik Kala, Business Head, TopSocial India

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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