Opinion | What’s the deal?

Influencers need to abide by the ad industry’s usual rules of transparency

Social media users as consumer guides? They exist. Many with large followings online have even gone professional. Naturally, advertisers see in these “influencers" a clever way to get their message across and are ready to pay them for it. If they act as paid brand endorsers, though, shouldn’t the standards that our ad industry operates by also apply to them? That’s the argument of the Advertising Standards Council of India, a self-regulatory body that wants to enforce disclosure and other norms on influencer recommendations.

It is easy to see why some influencers are resistant to the idea. Their social media appeal, after all, is personal, and many see their fans as part of a private club, communication with whom should be nobody else’s business. However, advertising is advertising, even—or particularly—if the pitches made on behalf of companies are subtle. In fact, it’s the surreptitious promotion of brands that is the problem. Given how fast this advertising device seems to be catching on, it’s only fair that audiences are informed of any deals struck behind the scenes. Influencers need to abide by the ad industry’s usual rules of transparency.