Influencer marketing has become an increasingly prominent feature of advertising as the industry continues to evolve. Yet this development has not been without its challenges to the trust between brands, agencies, influencers and consumers.
Influencer marketing posts have come under significant scrutiny from the Advertising Standards Agency, which has identified some talent as failing to disclose paid ads or not making the commercial intent of posts obvious to consumers. Meanwhile, influencers have voiced concerns over mental health issues, financial uncertainty and the difficulty of adapting to changing rules as a result of their self-employed status.
Against this background, ISBA launched a Code of Conduct for influencer marketing on 14 September 2021. The Code has been driven by ISBA members, who want to address the negative issues around influencer marketing. It aims to raise standards, to improve relationships between industry participants and to provide transparency for consumers.
The Code is not a new set of rules and regulations. Instead, it is intended as a guide to best practice in influencer marketing and contains commitments from brands, agencies and talent.
In announcing the Code’s launch, ISBA identified the following key objectives:
1. Delivering the transparency consumers expect and deserve
The Code points out that it is necessary to disclose when an ad is an ad (and provides guidance on how to do so), as well as containing a commitment not to use photo filters and misleading editing techniques. The Code also requires industry participants to meet their obligations to protect children and vulnerable groups.
2. Enabling authentic and effective influencer marketing
The guidance encourages influencers to give honest opinions on products and promotes their well-being (in terms of both financial and mental health). The Code also establishes a zero-tolerance policy to hateful content, alongside endorsing diversity and inclusion in the industry.
3. Improving brand/agency/talent relationships
The Code sets out how all participants should work collaboratively on campaigns, requiring agencies to play a key role in aligning brands and talent. Brands must provide clarity on KPIs, while influencers are expected to be clear in helping to demonstrate return on investment.
While the Code is not a binding legal document, it can be appended to contracts, and ISBA clearly hopes that it will be adopted as industry-standard. ISBA will be updating its own template contracts (published in 2018) to correspond with the guidance in the Code.
A copy of the Code can be accessed here.