Lack of regulation, manufacturers ditching the #advert

“A brand that we had a chance to deal with on our journey instructed us not to use the hashtag ad or hashtag sponsored post in the letter they sent us. This brand told us as an influencer in our guide to break Australian consumer law. “

Starting tonight, SBS’s The Feed will conduct a four-part study of the Australian influencer marketing industry which has found that this marketing avenue, despite the smoke and mirrors from industry associations, best practice guidelines and commercial disclosures in the Introduce law is profoundly flawed.

The show’s producer, Elise Potaka, says doing the right thing when it comes to promotional content isn’t just influencing factors, but brands, the social media platforms, and the government must do more to enforce the law .

“Government on a larger scale needs to ensure that consumers are informed and know that they can lodge complaints. Since you can file a complaint about a television advertisement, you can file a complaint about something that is on a social media platform. And I think consumers need to know that, ”she said.


SBS journalist Calliste Weitenberg as her alter ego @thatcoastalgirl

In February, the updated AANA Code of Ethics came into force with stricter rules to make the disclosure of paid jobs more explicit. Hashtags #ad, #advert, or #paidpartnership have been set as preferred terms because they are easy for consumers to understand. Vague terms like #sp, #spon, #gifted or #collab were rated as insufficient.

The Australian self-regulatory standards for advertising that enforce the Code are based on complaints from members of the public, the majority of whom often come from TVCs and outdoor advertising. Ad standards are based on advertiser compliance and work with other industry associations to ensure that they do not remove ads that are found to be in violation of the code. Only in extreme cases or when complaints indicate that advertisements violate Australian consumer law will the agency contact government agencies.

Reliance on public complaints is not a perfect system for every marketing format, but it especially fails with influencer campaigns, which tend to target a younger demographic. Ad Standards’ upcoming 2020 Operations Report found that nearly 50% of complaints were submitted by people aged 30 to 54. Only 7% of the complaints came from people aged 19 to 29, although this was a 6.3% increase in the previous year.

Ad Standards is apparently trying to raise awareness and engagement with younger populations through universities in 2021. Contacting young people is a priority. However, the ultimate goal of Ad Standards is to operate a complaint system that is suitable for all Australians.

“While young people are very demanding when it comes to evaluating influencer advertising, we will continue to focus on ensuring awareness and understanding that there is a system in place to address their advertising content concerns across all platforms, including social media , can be cleared, “said a spokesman for the organization notes.

“Ad Standards communicates regularly via social and digital media channels and national awareness campaigns. Our most recent awareness raising campaign in 2020 resulted in unsolicited awareness raising about advertising standards in the community to complain about advertising standards in Australia.

“Our focus is on ensuring a robust advertising complaint handling system that works in the best interests of all Australians, ensuring that people of all ages and backgrounds know that their voice matters and that Ad Standards is acting on their behalf .

In 2020, AIMCO’s Code of Practice (Australian Influencer Marketing Council) was also introduced, which outlines best practice methodologies for each phase of the business. The Code is designed to help marketers and agencies manage influencers and provide guidance on the review process, content rights and intellectual property, Australian consumer law requirements, information and reporting transparency.

Detch Singh, Chairman of AIMCO

AIMCO chairman Detch Singh, who is also CEO of the influencer marketing agency Hypetap, says: “It was never the intention of AIMCO to monitor the code.” The code should offer marketers more transparency in the process of influencer marketing and enable better management of campaigns.

Potaka points out, however, that AIMCO must ensure that its members are just as invested in adhering to the best practice guidelines as they are in being accredited as AIMCO members.

“It’s one thing to have the rules and guidelines and anyone can hold them up and say, ‘Oh yeah, we’re doing the right thing, that’s the best course of action,’ but if you go on Instagram today and take a look, Try You will find out what the sponsored posts are and what are not. See how influencers label their ads and I think you will find that there are a lot of problematic posts there, ”says Potaka.

Singh says that AIMCO members will be continually updated on the evolution of influencer marketing and how to act according to industry best practices to answer a question on how to ensure their members are following the Code of Conduct.

“Members (and non-members) have access to a range of resources and webinars to help them better understand the ever-evolving influencer landscape and how to work with industry best practices,” said Singh.

“Since the first iteration of the Code, the Guiding Council has also wanted to work with members to investigate the development of an accreditation framework. Watch this room. “

According to Potaka, it’s not just about enforcing codes of conduct in the industry, it’s also about ensuring that consumers can even determine what content is being paid for. What the industry needs is training for social media users on how to identify sponsored content and increased awareness of how to take action when influencers are suspected of violating the rules.

Ad Standards’ 2018 Community Perceptions Study found that across the community in general, there was little concern about whether or not an ad was clearly distinguishable.

However, Self-Regulator Executive Director Richard Bean noted that this is increasingly being raised as a public domain issue.

“The topic of distinguishable advertising is increasingly being addressed as a topic of community concerns in the media and in the broader community. This is reflected in the online advertising complaints filed with Ad Standards, which have increased from around 6% of total complaints in 2019 to just over 10% of all complaints received in 2020, ”said Bean.

“The recent update to Section 2.7 of the AANA Code of Ethics on Discriminable Advertising provides advertisers and influencers with much clearer guidance on the specific obligations currently in place. Ad Standards actively supports advertisers, including social media influencers, in meeting the standards set out in the codes, which benefit the community and the companies themselves. “

Richard Bean, executive director of Ad Standards

Given this low level of concern about advertising transparency, Potaka notes, “We know that influencer marketing is largely based on this notion of authenticity. For influencers and brands, it’s ultimately better now if the consumer or the person who follows them doesn’t see that it’s an ad. So it’s just some kind of product placement, but that’s against the rules and against the law. “

Despite a widespread lack of slaps in the face for marketing activities that violate the AANA Code of Ethics and even break the law, Potaka is certain that influencers are not sacrosanct, and if the industry tightened its market regulation, there would only be one case to the ACCC aims to bring brands and influencers in line.

Given that brands do problematic deals with influencers and the lack of enforcement by industry regulators, agencies are also not innocent in facilitating rule violations.

Later in the series, Potaka and reporter Calliste Weitenberg manage to sign the fake account they created with content with Weitenberg at an influencer marketing agency.

Potaka says very little was checked before signing up @thatcoastalgirl with the agency, which she didn’t want to name before the episode went live. One event of particular concern, given that most of the account was purchased, was counterfeit accounts.

“They all claim that they have verification processes, that they use software to analyze the accounts of the influencers who sign up with them. In this case, however, we were able to register very easily. Our account wasn’t tagged, we bought a few thousand fake followers, we joined engagement pods, the entire profile is fake, and yet we were able to log in and then do some branded deals, ”says Potaka.

The agency revealed in the documentary has been pretty straightforward with the stores closed between Potaka and Weitenberg and the brands they work with. She suggests, “Maybe that’s the problem here. Agencies and platforms need to make sure they are a little more practical with brands and influencers and the interactions between those two.”

According to ad standards, the penalty for influencers and advertisers if their content is found to be in breach of the AANA Code is that the post must be removed or changed and the publication of the community panel’s decisions “carries the risk that his reputation will be damaged if he is known as a company that has broken the codes and violated community standards ”.

The community panel has already decided and confirmed complaints about an influencer post since the Code of Ethics went into effect on February 1st. The case has yet to be cleared.

“Like, Subscribe Follow” starts tonight on SBS “The Feed” at 10pm AEDT.

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