Influencer marketing code updated, gifting guidelines scrutinised

Australian Influencer Marketing Council aims to provide further clarity for brands and creators when using influencer marketing

An update to the Influencer Marketing Code of Practice, and a new Guide to Gifting and Ad Disclosure have been released by the Australian Influencer Marketing Council (AIMCO) to give further clarity to brands, creators and agencies using influencer marketing. 

When updating the Code, AIMCO’s best practice working group considered recent changes to the Australian Association of National Advertisers’ (AANA) Code of Ethics, the Code’s application and recent rulings by Ad Standards, and reports by Ad Standards’ panel on consumer complaints.

The updated Code covers selecting and qualifying influencers, gifts and in-kind engagements, advertising disclosure best practice, contracts and intellectual property, metrics and reporting. Ad Standards cases relevant to the review are also included.

Changes to the Code focus on advertising disclosure and underline that disclosure covers all engagements whether paid, recompensed with gifts or value in-kind, contracted, or affiliate. Influencers’ voices in marketing channels are growing apace and industry estimates rate influencers as collectively relevant to $15 billion or more in advertising next year.

Gifts and in-kind value have been a murky area so AIMCO’s new Guide to Gifting and Ad Disclosure has responded with rules and examples of good disclosure. The Guide aims to minimise risk to reputations of creators and brands which could fall foul of Ad Standards compliance or Australian consumer law. The Guide spells out that ‘reasonable control’ by a brand means disclosure is required, and that simply providing products or services to an influencer is seen as reasonable control by Ad Standards.

Read more: the reasons L'Oreal joined AIMCO

The Guide offers several scenarios to illustrate this point. In one example, a brand sends out free samples to various influencers without any request to post. If some influencers decide to post about the product, the influencer needs to make it clear in the post that it is an ad. If the post were scrutinised, the brand would likely be found to have reasonable control of the post because a brand would not have sent the product for any other reason other than gaining promotion. The same applies if a brand organises an event, influencers attend and there is a takeaway bag given out. 

Even after a campaign has concluded, if an influencer posts about product or services after the campaign, they still need to make it known to viewers that there was a commercial relationship, including in posts after a commercial relationship ended. One example where no disclosure is required is where the gift comes from a friend or acquaintance with no connection to the brand. In this case, because the brand did not provide the product or service, it has no control of the post and the influencer would have no relationship to mention.

Influencer marketing platform, HypeAuditor, which uses AI-powered analytics to make influencer marketing transparent, found there are so many more breaches of the AANA code than the few that have been reported, and that proper disclosure is more likely the exception than the rule.

AIMCO was set up by the Audited Media Association of Australia in late 2019 and its original code was launched mid-2020 to align with the AANA’s code of ethics after it was launched earlier the same year to lift self-regulation of advertising honesty and transparency.

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