What standards govern influencer marketing practices in Canada?
Thanks to their strong and committed communities, influencers and youtubers offer brands such interesting marketing opportunities that today we could speak of a real influence industry . Issues around content quality, community selection, and Brand Fit for brands have already been largely covered . Also, although they are not yet unanimous, the best practices of companies towards influencers as well as influencers towards their audiences have evolved and been refined in recent years, following the evolution of the influence 2.0 phenomenon.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE STANDARDS THAT GOVERN THESE BUSINESS PRACTICES? WHERE ARE WE IN CANADA?
During the Youtubers and web influencers conference presented by Infopresse on September 21, 2016, the subject was raised in a round table with industry players and Danielle Lefrançois , Director of Communications at Advertising Standards Canada (ASC) .
" I'm representing Advertising Standards Canada today, so probably the least sexy part of this conference ," she said at the outset. , summarized here:
- Advertising Standards Canada is first and foremost a self-regulatory organization that administers ethics and manages complaints from consumers and companies against other companies;
- The code of ethics has been in place for several years, but updates are frequently made to adjust to new realities. Moreover, updates have been made in recent months to position ourselves in the face of influence marketing ;
- It is important to put yourself in the consumer's shoes . We have discussed the marketing angle of partnerships with influencers a lot by talking about Brand Fit or the natural fit between brands and influencers, but this is precisely what becomes difficult to detect for the consumer;
- The strength of influencers is this almost direct and authentic link they have with their fans, but that comes at odds with the fact that sometimes they are paid to tell them about a product. It can skew the links and the consumer can feel cheated ;
- If there is a contractual link between an advertiser and a youtuber or an influencer, this link must be announced, clearly disclosed. And no, a hashtag is not enough (#promoted, #ad, #pub);
- Disclosing that the content is advertising will not take away the authenticity of the influencer, on the contrary, its transparency could be better perceived than a secret placement .
Ms. Lefrançois ended her presentation with a concrete example:
“I had already been invited by a friend for a dinner and finally, when I got there, I realized that it was a commercial sales dinner. I felt cheated and my relationship and my trust with this friend were marked by this event. It's exactly the same with an influencer and their audience.
Following this, I had the chance to speak with her to ask her some additional questions:
What are the NCPs based on to frame the material links between brands and influencers?
In general, we rely on the FTC ( Federal Trade Commission ) which has a complete booklet on the subject and which stipulates that commercial agreements must be visibly and clearly highlighted in the content of the influencer, It is necessary that the consumer be aware and that this leaves no room for ambiguity.
Does your organization monitor Canadian companies? We don't do surveillance or monitoring, we react to the complaints we receive.
Does ASC have the power to crack down on wrongdoers?
Our role is above all to hold advertisers accountable, unlike the FTC in the United States, which is in a position to punish the culprits. We will therefore inform the advertiser, but we remain an organization that operates with a principle of self-regulation.
On the Advertising Standards Canada portal , we find essentially the same information: “ If Council determines that the advertisement violates one or more sections of the Code, it will uphold the complaint. The advertiser is then asked to modify or withdraw his advertisement.
Who will be affected by a reinstatement? The advertiser, the influencer or both?
If we consider that there is faulty behavior, we will inform the advertiser directly.
Finally, by searching for the terms Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, blog, influence and influencer in the database of complaints against advertising registered with ASC between the first quarter of 2004 and the first quarter of 2016, no complaint on influencer marketing appears to have been recorded , something that could change as early as 2017 as changes to the ASC Code of Ethics come into effect .
And you, what do you think of the position of Advertising Standards Canada on this subject?