'Some celebs think they are above labelling content': expert advice on keeping the right side of influencer marketing rules

Experts from across the comms industry offered insight and advice about the evolving world of influencer marketing at an event hosted by PRWeek UK yesterday morning (13 Sept).

The Influencer Breakfast Briefing at Regent Street Cinema included discussion from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) about adhering to influencer marketing regulations.

Delegates also heard from three of the finalists in the Best Influencer Marketing Campaign category at the PRWeek UK Awards 2017, who talked through their recent influencer-led campaigns.

Read next: Just trust us – what influencers want (and don't want...) from brand tie-ins

Each speaker offered the 150-strong audience their insights on creating standout influencer marketing campaigns and staying within the rules. Here are the key points from the session:

1) Influencers and brands are responsible for disclosing partnerships – but so are PR agencies

If influencers fail to disclose brand partnerships or try to hide them within posts, they will run into trouble. That was one of the warnings highlighted by ASA chief executive Guy Parker during a panel discussion about staying within the rules.

Asked where the buck stops, Parker said: "Brands and influencers are primarily responsible for disclosing partnerships, but if a PR agency is involved – they also have a responsibility to ensure disclosure."

2) Certain celebrities think they are above labelling content

Parker added that there was also an element of "blame shifting" when it comes to inadequately labelling influencer marketing content.

"There is also a low-level non-disclosure issue, particularly on Instagram. Certain celebrities think they are above labelling content."

Fortunately, he said influencers were "publically outing" those who fail to signpost content correctly. "For a regulator, it’s actually really helpful," he said.

3) Regulators struggling to win the battle against un-labelled content

Asked who was winning the battle for labelling content appropriately, Parker said regulators were making good progress, but conceded there was still a long way to go, adding that it was a global issue.

Fellow panellist Jon Riley, project director at the CMA, said in terms of every endorsement being labelled correctly, "clearly we are not there yet".

Riley said: "We see content all the time that looks ‘iffy’ and it is damaging for the influencer and potentially for the brand. Ultimately, you will pay a very heavy price [for promoting this type of marketing]."

4) Sponsorship is not the same as advertising

A member of the audience questioned whether adding #spon to influencer marketing posts was adequate in the eyes of the law.

In response, Parker said the issue with adding #spon is that it implies some sort of sponsorship relationship between and influencer and a brand.

He said: "Sponsorship is not the same in some contexts as advertising. Consider brands that sponsor TV programmes; nobody thinks they have control over the programming content. They are just associated with that content.

"If your relationship with an influencer sits somewhere in between then maybe #spon is appropriate, but if you control the message it is not."

5) Remember the word ‘influence’ in influencer marketing

Vicki Harding, managing partner at Iris Worldwide, spoke about the agency’s campaign for Adidas's new Glitch boots. Glitch was created to tap into the rising influence of youth academy footballers and football freestylers for the launch of Adidas' new boot.

Many of the influencers featured in the campaign started with relatively small followings on social media, Harding said, though all were chosen because of their passion for football.

"Remembering the word ‘influence’ in influencer marketing is so important. It’s about influencing people, and not necessarily about views or reach," Harding said. 

6) Branded content needs passion, or it will fail

Chris McCafferty, founder at Kaper, highlighted the successes of the agency’s recent Fête de la Gastronomie food festival for its client Maille.

As part of the festival, nine influential chefs were asked to create limited edition dishes using Maille brand mustard. The dishes were then sold in their restaurants, and featured at a banquet-style event on the Southbank in July.

None of the chefs were paid to take part, and did so because they genuinely like the product, McCafferty said. "There is so much bad branded influencer content out there. For a campaign to be successful it needs to have passion, and the influencers really need to believe in the product."

PRWeek's next live event is Strategic Internal Comms, the definitive internal communications and employee engagement conference, featuring speakers from HSBC, the BBC, the Met Police, EE and Macmillan. Click here to find out more and to book your place.


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