In 2014, an Oreo campaign that hired UK YouTubers to engage in ‘lick races’, had all the videos taken down after an advertising watchdog found a lack of disclosure. The UK has very strict influencer marketing laws, which require disclosure within the video and not just in the description of the video. That same kind of enforcement is coming to the US this year – the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced they will start strictly enforcing the rules they implemented years ago (to date, enforcement has been lax). Transparency and disclosure is absolutely crucial if you want to maintain your audiences’ trust, but not only that, it’s part of the law in the US. You can hide a brand deal by not disclosing it, but it will only hurt you in the long run.
I was curious about the kind of laws that exist around the world, so I set out to research them. This blog post does NOT constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is solely designed to give you an idea of the kind of laws that exist (or do not) around the world. I have always preached that strong, open and direct disclosure is the best policy for both yourself (legally) and your relationship with your audience.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defined clear influencer marketing rules several years ago. Content creators must disclose on each platform the content is shared (example: a blog must include disclosure, but a tweet sharing that blog must as well.) #ad is sufficient for Twitter as long as used before a link. While disclosure at the bottom of a post is okay, if it’s not clear and conspicuous, it may not be sufficient (small fonts/hidden under comments etc). The FTC has announced that Enforcement is about to become very strict.
Canada is behind in updating the laws to include influencer marketing, but there are some existing laws that do apply. Canada’s Marketing Code of Ethics requires disclosure of the connection between a marketer and someone endorsing their product. The Canadian Competition Bureau requires that you disclose if you have been paid or given something free to promote a product. Also, there is a law requiring that you have used the product and can be considered an expert in it before you can publicly promote it (Astroturfing). There has been little done to enforce this though.
The UK has clear requirements set for content creators. If any content is paid for (either with cash, or product) you must disclose that fact. They issued a direct letter to all content creators as a warning. The laws are covered in two pieces including one related to unfair trading and another about advertising practice codes. They also have additional rules for video creators. Enforcement is increasing in 2016 and beyond.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is a federal body that protects consumers. In their Competition and Consumer Act 2010, it says disclosure is necessary if it would be deceptive or misleading not to. As it stands now, the interpretation of that is somewhat open – and as such, disclosure is a good idea but it’s not strict (at the moment). Several court cases involving paid influencer will better define those rules soon.
Earlier this year, China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce (AIC) updated their laws as they related to online advertising. One of the specific requirements was that paid ads must be clearly marked. They also added that any ‘celebrity or endorser’ can be held liable if they endorse a product with false advertising.
Spain has pretty clear laws surrounding influencer marketing. It must be made clear to the reader/viewer that there is a relationship with the brand. That does not mean that every image/second needs to be tagged as such though. The rules become especially strict if an influencer’s main audience is under 18. The document is as one of the best when it comes to setting clear expectations for influencers.
There are currently no laws that relate to disclosure and influencer marketing. Also, in researching this I learned that there will never be laws surrounding it for one reason: “ทำอะไรตามใจ คือไทยแท้.”
Some member states of the European Union have some kind of law related to endorsements. However, there has yet to be an overall guide. The European Union is working a new set of laws and guidelines that will directly effect influencer marketing. You can see some of the plans here as they relate to misleading ads.
The laws that exist can be interpreted to apply to influencers, but that is unlikely. As such, there are currently no requirements for disclosure.
There are no rules that are directly mention online influencers, but they are working on them. One law that may apply is on ‘celebrity endorsement’, which could hold the endorser liable for damages or even jail time if they endorse a product that does not deliver – false advertising.
The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS), just released a new set of guidelines as it relates to influencer marketing. The new rules go into effect in Singapore on September 29th and are pretty detailed. First, you need to disclose if there has been any kind of compensation as soon as possible into a piece of content. Accepted disclosure includes the use of #adv, #sponsored or #endorsed. Secondly, they make it against the rules to inflate engagement by paid likes/followers/comments. There are additional articles that include fake reviews, negative campaigns and more. Check out the full list of rules here.