ASCI unveils final Guidelines for Influencer Advertising on Digital Media

Influencer marketing globally is estimated to be a $ 1.75 billion industry. The trend is gaining traction in India, with more and more consumers buying goods online. The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) to regulate this activity had issued the draft guidelines in February 2021 seeking feedback from all stakeholders – advertisers, agencies, influencers, and consumers, covered in our earlier post.

The final guidelines were rolled out on May 27, 2021, making them applicable to commercial messages or advertisements published on or after June 14, 2021. The guidelines make it mandatory for influencers to label the promotional content they post on digital media with the labels Advertisement, Ad, Sponsored, Collaboration, Partnership, Employee or Free gift.

The guidelines are comprehensive, and our post covers the details that advertisers and influencers must be aware of.


All advertisements published by social media influencers or their representatives on such influencers’ accounts must carry a disclosure label that clearly identifies it as an advertisement.

  1. The following criteria must be used to determine if the disclosure is required:
    1. Any material connection between the advertiser and the influencer.
    2. Material connection is not limited to monetary compensation. Disclosure is required if there is anything of value given to mention or talk about the advertiser’s product or service. 
    3. Disclosures are required even if the evaluations are unbiased or fully originated by an influencer, so long as there is a material connection between advertiser and influencer. 
    4. If there is no material connection and the influencer is telling people about a product or service they bought and happened to like, that is not considered to be an advertisement, and no disclosure is required on such posts. 
  2. Disclosure must be upfront and prominent so that an average consumer does not miss it.
    1. It should be placed in a manner that is hard to miss.
    2. Disclosures are likely to be missed if they appear only on an ABOUT ME or profile page, or bios, at the end of posts or videos, or anywhere that requires a person to click MORE.
    3. Disclosure should not be buried in a group of hashtags or links.
    4. Using a platform’s disclosure tool should be considered in addition to an influencer’s own disclosure. 
    5. If the advertisement is only a picture or video post without accompanying text (such as Instagram stories or Snapchat), the discloser label needs to be superimposed over the picture/video, and it should be ensured that the average consumer is able to see it clearly. 
      1. For videos that last 15 seconds or lesser, the disclosure label must stay for a minimum of 3 seconds. 
      2. For videos longer than 15 seconds, but less than 2 minutes, the disclosure label should stay for 1/3rd the length of the video.
      3. For videos 2 minutes or longer, the disclosure label must stay for the entire duration of the section in which the promoted brand or its features, benefits, etc., are mentioned.
    6. In live streams, the disclosure label should be announced at the beginning and the end of the broadcast. If the post continues to be visible after the live stream is over, appropriate disclosure must be added to the text/ caption.
    7. In the case of audio media, the disclosure must be clearly announced at the beginning and at the end of the audio, and before and after every break that is taken in between.
  3. The disclosure must be made in a manner that is well understood by an average consumer.
    1. Following is the list of disclosure labels permitted. Anyone or more can be used:
      1. Advertisement Ad
      2. Sponsored
      3. Collaboration
      4. Partnership
      5. Employee
      6. Free gift
    2. The disclosure should be in English or in the language as the advertisement itself in a way that is easy for an average consumer to understand.
    3. A virtual influencer must additionally disclose to consumers that they are not interacting with a real human being. Virtual influencers are defined as fictional computer-generated ‘people’ or ‘avatars’ who have the realistic characteristics, features, and personalities of humans and behave in a similar manner as influencers.
    4. The responsibility of disclosing material connection and the advertisement content is upon the advertiser for whose product or service the advertisement is and the influencer.

To sum up

The guidelines are pretty straightforward in terms of the obligation of the influencers. Thus they are advised to review and satisfy themselves that the advertiser can substantiate the claims made in the advertisement to avoid bad PR. To help with any questions, ASCI has launched the https://asci.social/ platform, a one-stop destination for all information related to the guidelines themselves. The digital platform is interactive with dos and don’ts, FAQs, influencer guidelines, etc.

In terms of keeping a tab on the influencer activities and potential violations of these guidelines, ASCI is stated to have engaged a French technology provider, Reech https://www.reech.com/en/. The Reech Influence Cloud platform is stated to use Artificial Intelligence to identify the lack of disclosure on posts of a commercial nature on social media.

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