In a move aimed at bringing transparency to the world of social media endorsements, the Department of Consumer Affairs, under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, has released a set of guidelines called "Endorsements Know-hows!" for celebrities, influencers, and virtual influencers on social media platforms.
What Are the New Disclosure Rules for Celebrities?
The guidelines aim to ensure that individuals do not mislead their audiences when endorsing products or services and that they are in compliance with the Consumer Protection Act and any associated rules or guidelines. The department has observed that there is confusion regarding which disclosure word to use for what kind of partnership. Therefore, for paid or barter brand endorsement, any of the following disclosures may be used: "advertisement," "ad," "sponsored," "collaboration," or "partnership." However, the term must be indicated as hashtag or headline text.
What Defines an Influencer According to the Law?
The guidelines specify that individuals or groups who have access to an audience and the power to affect their audiences' purchasing decisions or opinions about a product, service, brand, or experience, because of the influencer's/celebrity's authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with their audience, must disclose.
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Where Should Disclosures Be Placed for Compliance?
The guidelines state that the disclosure must be placed in the endorsement message in a manner that is clear, prominent, and extremely hard to miss. Disclosures should not be mixed with a group of hashtags or links. For endorsements in a picture, disclosures should be superimposed over the image enough for viewers to notice. For endorsements in a video or a live stream, disclosures should be made in both audio and video format and displayed continuously and prominently during the entire stream.
Must Experience the Product & Services Before Giving Endorsement
The guidelines advise celebrities and influencers to always review and satisfy themselves that the advertiser is in a position to substantiate the claims made in the advertisement. It is also recommended that the product and service must have been actually used or experienced by the endorser.
Liability for Advertising and Endorsing Products and Services
As the popularity of social media platforms continues to grow, so does the importance of maintaining transparency and authenticity in advertising and endorsements. The guidelines released by the Department of Consumer Affairs will go a long way in ensuring that celebrities, influencers, and virtual influencers on social media platforms are following ethical and legal practices when endorsing products or services.
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Rationale Behind Updated Guidelines for Celebrities
The release of these guidelines comes after a number of controversies involving celebrities and influencers promoting products or services without properly disclosing their relationships with the brand or company. Such incidents have led to concerns about the authenticity and trustworthiness of endorsements on social media platforms. The guidelines are a welcome move, as they will ensure that the audience is aware of the nature of the relationship between the influencer/celebrity and the brand, and that they are not being misled into purchasing a product or service based on false or misleading information.
Controversies Surrounding Celebrity Product Endorsements
Some celebrities have been caught up in endorsement controversies in the past. In one example, a Bollywood actress endorsed a skin lightening cream without disclosing that she was being paid for it. The incident led to a backlash on social media, with many people accusing the actress of promoting an unhealthy and discriminatory beauty standard.
In another example, a well-known YouTuber endorsed a weight loss supplement without disclosing that she was being paid for it. The incident led to a loss of trust in the influencer, as many people felt that she had promoted an unhealthy and potentially dangerous product without disclosing her relationship with the brand.
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Consequences of Non-Compliance with Advertising Guidelines: Legal Action
It is essential for celebrities and influencers to adhere to these guidelines to maintain transparency and authenticity with their audience. Failure to comply with the guidelines could lead to legal action, as well as a loss of trust and credibility among the audience.
The release of these guidelines is a positive step towards creating a fair and transparent environment for endorsements on social media platforms. It is hoped that other countries will follow suit and release similar guidelines to ensure that the audience is not being misled by false or misleading information in advertisements and endorsements.