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NEW DELHI : The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has issued draft rules for advertising and promotions by influencers on digital media platforms to protect consumer interest as the watchdog seeks to oversee the burgeoning digital influencer market.

The mainstay of the new draft code is to clearly identify and label upfront that a said communication is an advertisement. “The biggest part of the new rules is to tell consumers that you are watching an ad and not content. That disclosure has to be in a prominent position," said Manisha Kapoor, secretary general, ASCI.

Prominent labelling means people should not miss the disclosure and it should be suitable for all digital devices across phones, tablets and laptops. It needs to be visible regardless of the device used, or the platform such as website or app.

The nature of labelling has been specified for various digital media channels too such as Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. The code has given guidance on the type of disclosure on the varied promotions such as a video, picture promotion or an audio. In case of audio, the disclosure label must be stated at the beginning and the end.

According to the code, filters should not be applied to social media advertisements if they exaggerate the claim that the brand is making. “In case of a shampoo ad, the influencer should not use a filter to make the hair look shinier," said Subhash Kamath, chairman, ASCI, adding that the claims would also have to be truthful and honest.

The draft rules have been prepared in collaboration with digital and social media stakeholders and influencers. It is open for public discussion and suggestions can be given until 8 March. The final guidelines will be introduced by 31 March and it will be applicable to all promotional posts published on or after 15 April 2021.

The draft code requires an influencer to do due diligence of any technical or performance claims of the brands they promote. These could include claims such as “ 2X better, effect lasts for 1 month, fastest speed, best in class etc," the guidelines said. Evidence of due diligence would include correspondence with the advertiser or brand owner confirming that the specific claim made in the advertisement is capable of scientific substantiation.

Influencer marketing is currently estimated at $75 million-$150 million, according to digital marketing agency AdLift.

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