Influencer Marketing: The Do’s and Don’ts of Disclosure

July 12th, 2018 | ACA Team, Association of Canadian Advertisers

There’s no question that brands and influencers have to make their relationships clear to consumers. The Canadian Code of Advertising Standards requires disclosure of material connection, and the Competition Bureau enforces laws about misleading marketing practices.

What many marketers are unsure of, however, is how and what to disclose. To help marketers put disclosure into practice, Ad Standards’ influencer marketing steering committee recently developed influencer disclosure guidelines (available for download). These were shared at a recent ACA webinar presented by committee chair Richard Wong, VP of Marketing and Creator Relations at #paid, and Jani Yates, President and CEO of Ad Standards.

The overarching principle is “upfront is best,” said Wong. Disclosures are meant to provide transparency and honesty to all viewers of the sponsored content. Secondly, when in doubt, spell it out. “If you’re not sure whether to disclose it or not, generally it’s much safer to disclose,” said Wong.

 

Here are some of the do’s:

Disclosures should be clearly communicated and use widely accepted terms.

Hashtags that are widely accepted and recognized include #ad, #sponsored and #XYZ_Partner (where “XYZ” is the brand name), and in French: #pub, #commandité and #XYZ_partenaire. Disclosures can also be made through plain language, for example, “I’m excited to be working with X brand on the launch of product Y.”

Disclosures should be upfront and identifiable, especially in video.

Messages about a brand partnership should be placed prominently at the beginning of a video, as it’s more likely that a disclosure at the end of the video will be missed. In a YouTube video, for example, an influencer can mention the partnership in the caption, as well as talk about it at the start of the video.

Disclosures should be independent of social media network or channel-specific settings.

Many social media platforms offer a feature to disclose an advertising relationship, but they’re not sufficient on their own. For example, a “paid partnership” message in a video might flash on the screen for just a few seconds. A platform’s disclosure feature should be used along with other best practices.

 

Here are some of the don’ts:

Hidden disclosure.

Disclosures need to be clear and conspicuous. If they’re buried in a hashtag list, or are well below the main message of the post, they could be considered hidden.

Blanket disclosure. 

Blanket disclosures in an influencer’s profile/about section don’t meet mandatory disclosure criteria because people visiting the site might read individual reviews or watch individual videos without seeing the disclosure on another page.

Ambiguous hashtags.

Ambiguous phrases or hashtags, such as #ambassador, #collab, #spon and #promo don’t make it clear that there is a material connection, and consumers might not understand what these terms mean. “At the end of the day, it’s about [being] upfront and clear to the consumers who are viewing this content,” said Wong.

When material connection isn’t properly disclosed, brands not only risk monetary penalties, they risk negatively impacting consumers’ perception of the brand.

Yates pointed out that in an Ad Standards consumer survey, 91% of respondents agreed it’s important that consumers understand if marketing is sponsored, and 85% said their perception of a brand improves if it is transparent about product placement.

“The great news about this is for anyone who felt that if you do disclose, it might have a [negative impact], that’s not the case,” said Yates.