The Klarna Influencer Council kicked off last week (11.03) with a lively first session. The panel, led by Christian Howes, discussed a wide range of issues from the current guidelines and processes for creating branded content, as well as the role that that regulators such as the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) play. Each council member brought fresh perspectives and their unique experiences to the (virtual) roundtable, which resulted in an abundance of insights, opinions and stories to share. Let’s walk you through the key insights…
Our top four findings.
1. Authenticity is key.
Unanimously, the council agreed that there needs to be greater clarity over whether an influencer has ever genuinely engaged with a brand in the way they appear to. Adverts seen on social media are often unclear on whether the influencer is truly a brand ambassador, for example, have they ever used the skincare they’re promoting? Have they worn the clothes?
There was a call for greater transparency from both an influencer and brand perspective, to ensure audiences understand the difference between someone being a genuine fan and using the product, or just being paid to promote a product or service.
2. Clarity of current guidelines.
The current guidelines set out by the ASA are incredibly broad, and often difficult to upack. Whilst there is a library of guidance available for advertising best practices, when it comes to personalised, tailored advice, it is often tricky to navigate, especially when brands work across multiple regions. For example, what’s allowed in the US may not be the case in the UK, and vice versa. It is equally tricky for those who want to promote a message that is outside of their day-to-day business activity – is it suitable for a bank to talk about happiness? The lack of clear guidelines has meant there is a constant fear from all stakeholders about breaking the rules from brands, to influencers to agencies managing the relationship.
3. The rise of new platforms – how do brands and regulators keep up?
Advertising changed forever in 2020, with brands relying on a plethora of new and uncharted social media platforms to reach their users in a digital-only world. With the rise in social platforms came more uncertainty and discrepancy around what is and isn’t acceptable to share and post. Of course, each platform has its own set of guidelines in place, but as brands began to adopt and use multiple social channels at once, these guidelines became blurred. Platforms appear and disappear so quickly, and whilst having a presence on multiple is important for marketing purposes, this creates many challenges as, for example, ‘#AD’ looks very different on Snapchat as it would on Instagram as it would on YouTube. What’s more, the legality in hiding or even disguising disclaimers differs from platform to platform. There’s a lot to be done here, to smoooth out any guesswork and have clear, consistent guidelines that all brands and influencers can adhere to for each social platform.
4. Where does the responsibility lie?
The group collectively agreed it is difficult to pinpoint exactly where the responsibility for correct advertising lies – is it with the brands, the influencers or the platforms themselves? It was recognised that each has an incredibly important role and a responsibility resting on their shoulders – however who ultimately is in charge?
Considerations for all parties involved:
- Everyone has an obligation to consider the morals and ethics when deciding if something sits within guidelines; are they exploiting the consumer’s vulnerability? The role of the consumer’s mental health, and their capacity to act impulsively, is something all brands should consider when commissioning content – especially when messages are being broadcast directly into people’s homes.
- Brands need to undertake due diligence on the influencers they’re choosing to work with to ensure the individuals they choose are the correct ambassadors for their brand.
- Influencers must ensure they fully understand the signposting and hashtags they’re responsible for sharing.
It was clear from the discussions that the general guidelines need to be updated to reflect the modern day consumer purchasing cycle, and equally brands, influencers and platforms must reflect this in their own best practices.
So what’s next?
The session concluded with a discussion on what topics should be addressed in the following meetings, and it was agreed that a focus on transparency, guidance and boundaries needed to be addressed. The next session will be held on the 25th March, where we will be discussing:
- What is needed to deliver better signage and transparency for better consumer protection?
- How do we talk about financial products and T&Cs in an acceptable, informative way for consumers? How much information is too much, or too simplified?
- Educating around By Now Pay Later USP – what language is acceptable?
- How can we safeguard consumers and offer support for those struggling with financial stress?