The third Influencer Council session was jam-packed – discussion points included transparency, geographical challenges, responsibility (from brands, to influencers to the Government) and the use of emotive language. These topics, amongst many others, will be included in the final Whitepaper to be published next month. This will delve into the best practice suggestions that the Council agreed upon to create a safer, clearer and more coherent set of guidelines, available to all alongside a downloadable set of tools for influencers and brands alike to use to help adhere to these recommendations.
Let’s take a closer look through what was discussed and a sneak peak of what will come in the final Whitepaper.
1. Geography and age.
An influencer’s reach isn’t always confined to one country, and it can be difficult for influencers to know that they are co-operating with local regulations. Brands must take into consideration the demographics of an influencer’s following to ensure that they are compliant with the local market.
Age range continues to be a discussion point within the sessions. The Council agreed that there is a responsibility not to advertise to those under 18, especially when it comes to financial products. As such, the council is reviewing what percentage of the under 18 audience is acceptable when working with influencers to promote a financial services product.
Similarly, the current lack of transparency is a hot topic on the Council’s agenda, arguably the most important issue to solve. The Whitepaper will seek to provide clarity on guidance around T&Cs, how to highlight when an influencer is advertising a product or a brand and the use of appropriate hashtags.
The Council unanimously agreed that it’s highly important that any endorsements are authentic – they can only come from the influencer genuinely using the product themselves. Ensuring clear visibility of any terms and conditions was also discussed; the guidelines will seek to maintain clear signage without any filters, or tactical disguising of terms. In addition, to tackle the widespread and differing terms used across all platforms, the Council discussed the role of the hashtag, and agreed on three industry standard terms – advert, gifted and affiliate – that easily communicate the nature of a post, whether it’s a paid advert or a gifted product from a brand.
Pinning down where the true responsibility lies for educating and providing real clarity to audiences has been a big topic for the Council, and in this session the Government was addressed. As the overarching body who should take ultimate responsibility, the Council suggested, and agreed upon, requesting that legislation is created to ensure all influencers and brands adhere to guidelines appropriately and that platforms provide a duty of care.
Of course, the guidelines that will be created following the sessions will empower the consumer to take responsibility too but, at this stage, the Council agreed that it’s unfair to put any real responsibility on consumers without clear information provided by brands and influencers.
4. Emotive language and tone of voice.
Unanimously, the Council agreed that language and tone of voice should never encourage impulse buying and it’s everyone’s responsibility to encourage responsible shopping. This means avoiding phrases like shopping spree, retail therapy or glamourising purchasing items that are outside an individual’s budget. This also extends to music, with the Council agreeing that no lyrics should be included in an advert if they can be associated with reckless spending.
There is also the vital importance of not manipulating vulnerability in any way. Could this be helped with a mental health manifesto from financial brands? Or a clear explanation surrounding credit to ensure that all shoppers are completely informed and under no illusion that buying a product can lead to social success, or enhance wellbeing? This is a monumental discussion and one that won’t be solved quickly, but something that the Council is passionate about helping to resolve.
So, what’s next?
After another impactful session, the Council ended on the agreement that due to the ever changing landscape of new emerging platforms and innovation, it’s important to continue to meet on a bi-annual basis after the initial sessions have concluded. It’s vital that work continues to be done to keep up with the speed of innovation to ensure that no consumer is left in the dark on the advertorial nature of a post.
For now, we are continuing to build our Whitepaper and can’t wait to share the final results. Keep tuned in and make sure to check out Extra O blog to stay in the loop, or if you’d like to learn more about The Influencer Council, click here.