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ADVERTISING RULES FOR INTERNET INFLUENCERS 2021


Author: Vanisha Mishra

Institute of Law, Delhi








ABSTRACT:

Influencers, in layman’s language, are the people, who hold the capacity to influence people, over the digital platforms. Influencers on these platforms receive their validity from the general public and are often much adored and respected. People follow whatever is being fed to them, also, several fashion and trends are created by the influencers, using their position, to gather a huge public base, and earning out of such popularity. The advertisements put up by these influencers may appear as a genuine promotion or may deliberately be made to look so, as a result, viewers get increasingly mislead, due to a lack of sources to get genuine information from. They tend to use the products or services which their internet influencer is using.

Thus, our regulatory system requires to ensure that such people who are advertising any sort of thing, because they have a wider reach to people and a lot of emotional appeal value, they don’t mis utilize such popularity and following by solely taking care of their interests and shedding of the responsibility which they hold due to their influential position. The guidelines laid down by the ASCI[1] in 2021, end to ensure strict mechanisms through which, there’s greater transparency and the viewers get knowledge, so that they may be able to distinguish between genuine promotions and paid advertisements.


INTRODUCTION:

Rules for advertising over social media platforms has been laid down by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI)[2], setting up some basic requirements and ground rules to ensure ethical advertising. It tends to regulate such influencers, who advertise or promote any brand or product, by explicitly disclosing the promotional nature of the post/content using labels like, #promo, #sponsored, #partnership or #ad, etc. These draft guidelines also encompass the definition of digital media, wherein, a wide range of platforms are covered within the remit of digital media, e.g., mobile broadcasts, blogs, apps, digital TV, etc.


Need of these regulations:

Influencers are individuals who have the ability to influence others across these channels. The public validates such influencers, and they are often adored and revered. People follow whatever is fed to them, and they often generate many fashion and trends, using their position to attract a large audience and profit from it. The lifestyle of these influencers is considered as an ideal by people, and consequentially, this model lifestyle becomes a dream of the followers, which has to be achieved to be acceptable in society, which is already full of trends. Thus, to gain validity, people, nowadays, tend to follow the influencers of their choice. From following their lifestyle to copying the type of clothes they wear, there’s a great frenzy in people to become like that one model/ ideal person. Moreover, people get recognized by their peers and friends for doing such a thing, as this is commonly attributed to the achievement of a “status” in the society. This motivates people to go a further extent and trust the influencers they’re following and that, such influencers are promoting the right product or services, which they seem to use. Now that, a person aims is to follow exactly what the influencer is doing, it’s difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is just an advertisement. In this case, it leads to unethical promotion, as the influencer themselves is not using that product, however, urges their followers to use it, not out of any genuine concern, but for the sake of advertisement, irrespective of any genuine relationship with those products and services. This misleads the viewers into assuming that it is a genuine promotion.


Effect of such misleading advertisements on viewers

Since the advertisements may appear as a genuine promotion or may deliberately be made to look so, viewers get increasingly mislead, due to a lack of sources to get genuine information from. They tend to use the products or services which their internet influencer is using. This, first of all, maybe resultantly harmful for general public, as, when influencers advertise anything, they do not set out any warning or the possible harm that particular product may cause to some people, because they are not aware of such limitations, since they do not use it. Thus, the possible harms caused to the public maybe all the more probable, because of, the blind belief and bias associated with the product, and lack of awareness about the same.

This also affects the choice of the people. A simple test to prove this would be had people chosen the product or service if the advertisement wasn’t there. This gives out a straight- forward result that a person’s willingness to buy the particular product has been there just because of the usage by an influencer. Thus, in case the product is not the one used by the influencers; it leads to a fabricated choice by making them buy what they believe the influencer must use. Hence, there’s also a large amount of ambiguousness among the general public, in case such advertisement content is not expressly stated.

There are several instances of such ads, e.g. –

The Maggi noodle debate is in all likelihood perhaps the greatest one to hit a mainstream food industry. While the ads guaranteed the noodle to be a good and inexpensive food alternative for youngsters, Maggi tests gathered from various states found monosodium glutamate (MSG) which were in overabundance, exceeding the prescribed limit in the noodles. In this case, an FIR was also lodged against celebrities and influencers like Madhuri Dixit, Amitabh Bachchan and Preity Zinta for acting in these advertisements, and making them sound safe for public use.

Horlicks: The health drink brand has claimed to make youngsters taller, more concentrated and keener altogether its advertisements. An objection was documented against Horlicks for one of its promotions which said that Horlicks improves concentration, and along these lines can help students score better during tests. The complaint expressed that there was no proof that the wellbeing drink could do this, and by focusing on the test season, the organization was utilizing individuals' vulnerabilities to sell their item product. This advertisement was being carried on by celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan.

Harmful effects of misleading advertisements –

For understanding the possible effects, which such misleading advertisements could have on the general public, we need to take into consideration the kind of relation between influencers and viewers.

It is a kind of relationship where, the viewers consider influencers as an authority and tend to follow them, to gain validity from society. In this position, influencers are kept at a higher pedestal and thus, they have the capability of influencing the trends. It’s the influencers, who decide what should mass follow, the practices that they should adopt, the content they should come across to bring about the desired impact. Thus, the influential capacity is extremely large, which creates a burden on them to ensure that the thing they are promoting or advertising has the desired impact on the viewers, since, such an impact could be of intense gravity. Moreover, it is also important for our regulatory system to ensure that such people who are advertising any sort of thing, just because they have a wider reach to people and a lot of emotional appeal value, they don’t mis utilize such popularity and following by solely taking care of their interests and shedding of the responsibility which they hold due to their influential position. Such regulations are als