New ASCI guidelines for influencers will bring a greater sense of moral obligation: Experts

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has revised its description of celebrities in its regulations to encompass social media influencers with a follower count of 500,000 or higher. The ASCI guidelines encompass a particular rule for celebrities, mandating that ads featuring them remain in accordance with the ASCI Code. Furthermore, celebrities are expected to be well-versed in the code’s principles. Endorsements from celebrities should genuinely represent their current viewpoints and must stem from sufficient information or firsthand familiarity with the endorsed product or service.

Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary General, ASCI, said, “With the advent of social media and the increasing popularity of influencers on digital media, the definition of celebrities has come to change drastically. Earlier, only personalities from the world of sports or entertainment were considered celebrities. Today, however, the scenario is different. We have a range of personalities who are extremely popular on social media and share a close personal connection with consumers. These personalities affect the spending habits of consumers who trust them. So, it’s vital to ensure consumer protection – especially when celebrities endorse products or services that can cause serious financial loss and physical harm. This update widens ASCI’s ambit and includes all those personalities who have a notable influence as celebrities. With this, we have taken yet another important step in furthering the cause of consumer safety with regard to advertising.”

On this, Comedy creator duo, Slayy Point shared excitement, saying, “ASCI’s decision to include influencers above 500k in the celebrity bracket is a welcome move. We believe that with the industry maturing and gaining recognition, content creators cannot run away from responsibility. They will have to understand the impact and consequences of their content. That being said, we believe that industry-wide awareness campaigns need to be conducted to make the ecosystem more trustworthy and inclusive.”

The rules necessitate that celebrities engage in thorough research to confirm that the claims made in the ads can be objectively proven and supported. When requested, celebrities must be able to provide proof of their diligent efforts. Alternatively, the advertiser should have created the ad based on guidance provided by ASCI.

Pranav Panpalia, Co-Founder of OpraahFx, observed, “There’s no denying that influencers are the modern-day celebrities, they have become household names. They had to work immensely hard to earn this trust & build their follower base. At the same time, we believe that with this growth an enormous amount of responsibility lies on them. The endorsements or associations they do has an impact on their audience. This is where we come into the picture, as their partners in growth. We not only guide them but we act as a filter to the outside world. At OpraahFx, we handpick the associations for our creators. In the initial stages, we spend a huge amount of time understanding their interest and liking, which helps us make better decisions for them. In fact, it is a continuous process. This simplifies decision-making for them, concurrently ensuring they are doing justice to the audience and the content.”

Furthermore, according to the ASCI code, celebrities are forbidden from endorsing products, treatments, or remedies that are prohibited from being advertised under the Drugs & Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954, as well as the updated Drugs & Cosmetic Act, 1940, and Rules 1945 (Schedule J).

Neel Gogia, Co-Founder, IPLIX Media, pointed out, “With the industry’s growth, a huge responsibility lies in the hands of influencers. The risk of spreading misinformation is directly proportional to their follower base, the larger the follower base, the larger the risk. At IPLIX Media, we believe in empowering the influencers, rather than regulating them. We’ve first hand witnessed that if influencers truly understand the impact they are creating, they take more responsibility and accountability for it. We wholeheartedly support ASCI’s decision and will continue to encourage and guide influencers to implement it.”

According to Venugopal Ganganna, CEO, Langoor, “The guidelines for Influencer Marketing are a step in the right direction since consumers have the right to know the difference between content and promotional advertisement. The new guidelines also act as a forcing function since they will encourage influencers to promote products or services that they genuinely believe in. This can help maintain authenticity in influencer endorsements and build much-needed walls of trust between influencers and their followers.”

Historically, celebrities who could lend credibility for brands and influence large masses of people largely comprised popular actors and sports personalities. However, in recent years, the phenomenon of social media influencers has created new centers of mass-influence. In this scenario, it was necessary to broaden the definition of celebrities to include such influencers too.

Swati Nathani, Co-Founder and Chief Business Officer, Team Pumpkin, noted, “We totally support ASCI’s most recent recommendations for celebrities. By establishing these standards, ASCI not only acknowledges the influence that celebrities have on shaping public opinion, but also increases their degree of accountability. This is probably going to inspire brands and celebrities to approach endorsements and promotions with a greater sense of moral obligation, which will eventually benefit consumers and create a more reliable advertising environment.”


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