Influence marketing

Attempts by governments to regulate influencer marketing

, 18 January 2019

Every market has its own regulation, but one thing is certain: western markets always react when faced with the emergence of an entire sector which needs to be regulated. Discover how 4 major markets are defining the rules of influencer marketing.

The mistakes of the Australian government

As a typical free market government, the Australian authorities are quite adept at a laissez-faire approach regarding the regulation of influencer marketing, as long as it is clearly labeled as such. However, the government has had to give up using influencers for its own campaigns.

Indeed, the health and army ministries used influencer marketing last year, respectively to encourage young girls to do more sports (“Girls Make You Move”), and young men to join the Australian Air Force.

The problem: the influencers paid by the government (and therefore by the Australian taxpayer) had also previously promoted alcohol brands and unsavory dietary supplements. Even worse, the Ministry of Defense had paid 52,500 Australian dollars to the popular gamer Alen Catak, aka Champ. The problem: in other videos the Youtuber had made dubious jokes, ranging from sexism to homophobia. That the taxpayer’s money ends up in the pockets of such characters was not frankly to the taste of the Australian public

The influencer Champ made a big show to promote the Australian Air Force, but it was not to everyone’s liking.

The case shows the importance of the influencer choice process. For now, the Australian government has preferred to put a halt to the approach “the government has recently audited its use of influencers on social media and determined that they will not be used for future campaigns,” said Finance Minister David Coleman in the tabloid The Daily Telegraph.

Canadian Pedagogy

In Canada, the Advertising Regulatory Authority is called Ad Standards, and has released a comprehensive document aimed at influencer marketing industry professionals to educate stakeholders about their duty to transparency. Notably, the document covers not only influence on social networks but also on blogs and on YouTube.

In its definition document, the Canadian authority specifically states the obligation to disclose a paid partnership through the use of a dedicated hashtag such as #ad or #sponsored

In this way, the committee insists on the obligation to communicate clearly on the paid nature of any recommendation for a brand. In case of a breach, it is the competition authority (or Competition Bureau) that can act, and they can have a heavy hand. For example, in 2015, Bell Canada was fined CAD 1.25 million (over € 800,000) for an offense against undisclosed paid recommendations.

US authorities are keeping watch with the FTC

The FTC is the competition authority in the US, and it is very vigilant about transparency in the online advertising sector, and obviously influencing? It has been so for a long time and well before the problem grabbed the attention of European legislators.

Moreover, there was no need for a new law, as the FTC considers that section 5 of the old FTC Act (which defines its scope) is sufficient: it prohibits false advertising. To avoid any risk, it’s basically enough to clearly display the nature of a native advertisement, and again, a hashtag does the trick.

The FTC generally tends to favor a pedagogical approach by warning those responsible for an impediment in this area, rather than issuing fines. Interestingly, it is addressed to both the brand and the influencer, considering that transparency is a shared obligation.

Influence Marketing regulation in Belgium

In Belgium, the advertising council, called JEP, is in charge of regulation, and it is not exaggerated to say that they were a little slow to react: the authority published its first marketing recommendations in October 2018. Objective: to finally remove any ambiguity on the commercial nature of certain publications. One minister had announced that he would prepare a piece of legislation. Meanwhile, the Belgian government fell, and the text with it

The JEP, however, continues to raise awareness. This month (January 8, 2019), they even officially released a complete official guide to regulate native advertising specifically.

The new Code states as follows:

“All commercial communication must be instantly and clearly identifiable by the group targeted by the communication.

Law for the identification of native advertisements and related commercial communications, Belgium, 2019.

It’s not very different what is recommended by the authorities of other countries, but it has the merit of being clear.

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