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'All brands and influencers must demand honesty and responsibility from each other'

Manisha Kapoor, Secretary General, ASCI, opens up about the body’s guidelines for social media influencers, what's in it for brands, and more

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Feb 22, 2021 9:04 AM
Manisha Kapoor

In its bid to protect consumer interest, the latest on The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI)’s radar is social media influencers. The advertising regulator has framed guidelines basis international best practices to enable end-users to make informed decisions regarding their purchases online. To understand more about the same, exchange4media had a conversation with Manisha Kapoor, Secretary General, ASCI. Kapoor shared that by clearly laying out some dos and don’ts, the body expects this to become a useful way for brands and influencers to align on ways to be honest and responsible.    

Edited excerpts below: 

Share with us the intricacies of the guidelines framed based on the influencer space? What was the thought process and objective behind it?

Digital advertising has grown big; it’s not niche anymore. The lines between advertising and content are blurring fast. It is extremely important that consumers can distinguish between organic content and commercial messages or advertising. At ASCI, we are trying to protect consumer interest by guiding influencers to be more responsible. The influencer marketing industry is $75-$115 million, according to an Adlift report, and we are trying to channelize the energies of both brands and influencers towards honest advertising.

As the body doesn’t have punitive powers as such, how will it ensure these guidelines are adhered to?

We are a self-regulatory body and compliance rates with our decisions have always been extremely high, at over 90%. It shows that most advertisers wish to be responsible and honest, so the lack of punitive powers isn’t really an issue. We want to educate both brands and influencers, through these guidelines. Influencers are an important part of the advertising ecosystem now. So, they should be aware of the best practices on how to be responsible and protect consumer interest, even as they go about establishing their brands.

What's in it for brands? What should they bear in mind while collaborating with influencers? What kind of guideline does it include for them?

Brands can have a long life and be profitable only when consumers trust them. The same goes for influencers. Hence, all brands and influencers must demand honesty and responsibility from each other, because it is the consumer’s right to receive truthful advertising. By clearly laying out some dos and don’ts, we expect this to become a useful way for brands and influencers to be honest and responsible.    

What kind of changes can we expect from brands when such policies will come into effect?

We expect brands to tap influencers who can convey their message to the audience fairly and honestly. Honest brands and honest influencers will be able to come together in a more ready fashion with the guidelines serving as a basic framework.

Many influencers have argued that digital medium is censor-free and that we shouldn’t bind original content creators with guidelines as it could hamper creativity. Your comment?

World over, the best pieces of communication, the most creative communications have not had to be dishonest or misleading just to be creative. We are all game for encouraging creativity and indeed that’s a wonderful part of digital marketing. Being responsible does not come in the way of true creativity. Consumers have the right to receive honest advertising and know when a certain message is commercial in nature. We are sure that honest influencers feel the need to be responsible and truthful to their followers as well.

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