Applying influencer powers ethically and responsibly

Applying influencer powers ethically and responsibly

Are you an influencer looking to build trust and credibility with your audience? Or an advertiser seeking to ensure transparent and responsible advertising practices for food supplements? 

Explore the IADSA Influencer marketing of food supplements: Best practice guide

Our guide does not aim to replace national guidelines or legislation. To know more about obligations of an influencer and rules to guide influencer activity in different countries, IADSA has also developed this hub.

The material and information contained on this website is for general information purposes only. You should not rely on material or information on the website as a basis for making any business, legal or any other decisions.

The Council for Advertising Self-Regulation (“CONARP”) published in June 2020 the guide “Influencers: Guide for communication for commercial purposes”, which provides guidelines and recommendations for companies that decide to hire influencers on social networks.  In its recommendations, CONARP recommends brands instruct influencers on the legal framework of their products and services, require influencers to act with transparency and honesty and disclose payments received and sponsored content.

In 2022, the Communication for Commercial Purposes: Recommendations for Influencers, was issued by CONARP providing further recommendations for influencers and celebrities.

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The ASEAN Committee on Consumer Protection (ACCP) in cooperation with the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on E-Commerce and Digital Economy (ACCED) launched the ASEAN Guidelines on Consumer Protection in E-Commerce to promote consumer protection practices within the e-commerce space and the greater digital economy in ASEAN.

The guidelines aim to direct ASEAN Member States to modernise their respective legal frameworks and instruments so that deceptive, abusive and unfair business practices in e-commerce can be effectively checked.

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In Australia, The Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code has been designed to help advertisers apply the legislative requirements for advertising therapeutic goods, including supplements, on social media platforms.

The TGA Code provides rules regarding testimonials for therapeutic goods by social media influencers or anyone else receiving valuable consideration for their endorsement.

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In Austria, the Advertising Council has developed a website to allow influencers to check whether their message should be considered as an advertisement or not.

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In Belgium, the Federal Public Service Economy, also known as FPS Economy, has a crucial role in monitoring, advising, and enforcing regulations concerning advertising, particularly in relation to influencers. With the growing significance of influencer marketing, the Belgian government has established detailed guidelines and responsibilities for influencers.

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Furthermore, recommendations from the Communication Centre were initially issued in 2018 and were revised in 2022. This updated version offers great clarity, assisting influencers, advertisers, and agencies in adherence to legal requirements in commercial communications.

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In Brazil, the National Council for Advertising Self-Regulation (CONAR) has developed a Guide for Digital Influencers to establish standards and ethical criteria in advertising to be carried by the channels used by such influencers.

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The Chilean National Consumer Service (SERNAC) has created general guidelines on influencers through the “Interpretative Circular on native advertising and influencers.” The Circular introduces good practices to protect consumers’ rights including disclosure of sponsored content, clear information about the connection between influencer and companies, and truthfulness of claims.

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The Cyberspace Administration of China has introduced guidelines for tech companies to moderate their platforms and how they operate. Under this regulation, social media companies are responsible for the authentication of all content posted on their platform. They will also be tasked with enforcing the body’s “one account for one person, two accounts for one enterprise” policy and suspend or prohibit users who have not been granted “profit-making permission’ from the Chinese government.

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The Superintendence of Industry and Commerce (SIC) has issued the “Guide on good practices in Advertising through Influencers” providing guidance on how to issue messages and commercial content on social networks.

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The Danish Consumer Ombudsman is an independent authority that supervises that companies comply with the Marketing Act and other consumer protection legislation, especially from the point of view of consumers. This organisation has issued guidelines titled “Good Advice for Influencers about Hidden Advertising.” which provide advice to influencers regarding the disclosure of advertising content on social media platforms, emphasizing the necessity of clear disclosure when content serves commercial interests to ensure transparency for followers. Recommendations covers various scenarios such as sponsored content and gifted products. Furthermore, the guidelines specify how advertisements should be labelled, whether through text, images, or videos, to ensure transparency. Additionally, they highlight the increased responsibility when advertising to children and young audiences, necessitating even clearer disclosure.

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Influencer marketing has been regulated in the EU under existing national advertising and consumer protection laws, with self-regulatory authorities.

In addition, the EU’s Electronic Commerce Directive and Audio Media Services Directive require all influencers in member states to mention commercial partnerships on communications, including the advertiser’s name.

In 2022, the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act were published, introducing new oversight requirements on digital business practices and service providers.

Under the new acts, influencers have a greater responsibility for their online content and to ensure it is appropriate, not misleading or illegal. 

The European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA) has developed Best Practice Recommendation on Influencer Marketing 2023 that provides a list of recommended keywords and hashtags for proper disclosure in various languages.

While waiting for a comprehensive harmonisation to be put in place, the rules vary from one country to another. Some examples of EU Member State rules are available on this website. In addition, the European Commission has created an Influencer Legal Hub including video trainings and briefings on aspects of European law in this area.

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In Finland the commercial cooperation between companies and influencers should be communicated to consumers in targeted influencer marketing in accordance with the Consumer Protection Act and influencers are required to clearly inform the consumer of the commercial nature of their marketing. The Finnish Consumer Ombudsman maintains guidelines for influencer marketing in social media. This includes guidance and examples to influencers on how to post legally on the most common social media platforms.

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The French parliament passed laws in April 2023 that defined the statute of ‘commercial influencer’ and ‘influencer agent’, reinforcing protections for minors working as influencers and establishing a dedicated team within the consumer affairs and protection service to investigate complaints about influencer content. The government also released a Best Practice Guide for Influencers and Content Creators to inform them of their rights and obligations under the law. Failing to announce the commercial intent of content is punishable by up to two years prison and €300,000.

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In Germany influencers who sell goods, offer services or market their own image using social media are considered to be running a business. Promotional posts should be clearly identified. Any reference to a brand or product is considered an advertisement if there has been an agreement between the brand/vendor and the influencer and the influencer receives compensation (remuneration or benefit in kind). The advertisement must then mention the term “Werbung” or “Anzeige” at the beginning of the post or video (+ in its description). However, courts have ruled that the labels “#sponsored by” or “#ad” are not sufficient. It is also not sufficient that the advertising nature of the post becomes only apparent upon closer inspection. Rather, it must be obvious to an average user at first glance that the post in question is advertising.

In January 2023, The Indian Department of Consumer Affairs issued the ‘Endorsements Know-hows! for celebrities, influencers and virtual influencers on social media platforms’ (Endorsement Know-Hows) which aims to curb misleading endorsements.

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The DCA has now also issued the Health & Wellness Influencer Guidelines as an extension to the Misleading Ads & Endorsement Guidelines. These require that celebrities, influencers and virtual influencers presenting themselves as health experts or medical practitioners should clearly distinguish between their personal views and professional advice and refrain from making specific health claims without substantiated facts.

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There are a number of different types of ads that can appear social media, including affiliate or advertorial ads that have been published by an influencer. The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) has issued a Guidance Note focuses on these social media influencer marketing communications.

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In 2019, Italy inserted the Digital Chart Regulation into the Italian Code of Marketing Communication, effectively setting binding rules for influencers and businesses using influencer marketing on social media. This Regulation lists the requirements to be met including the wording and hashtags to be used, to make digital commercial communication distinguishable.

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In 2024, The Italian Communications Authority (Agcom) released guidelines for influencers to ensure the protection of minors and transparency in advertising. The guidelines emphasise the importance of respecting human dignity, adhering to regulations protecting minors, preventing hidden advertising, and promoting transparency. They also establish a technical committee for oversight.  The guidelines apply primarily to influencers operating in Italy with at least one million followers and an engagement rate of 2% or higher.

Allegato A

Allegato B

In Latvia, advertisers and content creators are obliged to follow strict regulatory guidelines for social media marketing, including prohibitions on advertising tobacco, alcoholic beverages, and consumer services.  Transparency is emphasised, requiring the disclosure of commercial content and any incentives received. To achieve this, specific hashtags are advised for clarity and transparency.

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The Lithuanian government has released guidelines emphasizing transparent labelling of social media ads, especially those involving influencers and content creators. It covers sponsored content, product trials, and brand partnerships, with specific recommendations for platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, advocating the use of hashtags like #Ad or #Sponsored. This helps consumers differentiate between authentic opinions and paid endorsements, while also discouraging deceptive practices.

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Malaysia’s online advertising is regulated under the Code of the Communication and Multimedia Content Forum of Malaysia (CMA). The Complaints Bureau of the Content Forum (with whom members of the industry and the public may lodge complaints) may impose fines up to RM 50,000 for any breach of the Content Code. The Content Code also recognises the concept of “virtual influencers” who are computer-generated characters or avatars who have realistic characteristics, features and personalities of humans and behave in a similar manner as influencers.

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The PROFECO (“Procuraduría Federal del Consumidor”) has published the “Advertising Guide for Influencers” which regulates the content of advertisements that influencers publish in their social networks.

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The Advertising Standards Authority in New Zealand has developed a Code of Ethics around influencer marketing to more clearly inform consumers of the nature of content that they are consuming. The ASA Code of Ethics states that all advertising content controlled directly or indirectly by the advertiser should be identified as such, regardless of the medium used to distribute it. Free product with controlled messaging can also be classified as an advertisement.

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The Norwegian Consumer Agency has issued a guide focussing on marketing in social media and the requirement for all marketing content to be clearly marked as such. This guide primarily targets advertisers who engage influencers in their marketing efforts, as well as influencers who receive compensation or other benefits for promoting products, services, or businesses on their social media platforms.

The guidance provided also covers questions regarding the rules applicable when influencers collaborate with non-profit organisations, promote their own products or services, and when companies publish content on their own social media channels.

For more information, the guide can be found here and the frequently asked questions about advertising in social media are here.

The Office of Competition and Consumer Protection has issued recommendations regarding the tagging of advertising content by influencers on social media. These guidelines aim to ensure that consumers are properly informed about whether the content presented by influencers constitutes advertising or promotion of products and services, whether from third parties or the influencers’ own businesses.

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The Portuguese advertising authority “Direção-Geral do Consumidor” has published a guide for influencers for digital marketing that aims to raise awareness of compliance with the law on advertising and consumer protection, as well as to promote good practices in commercial communication in the digital environment.

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The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore has developed Guidelines to regulate advertising on interactive and social media, which form part of the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice (“SCAP”). Influencers must prominently disclose commercial relationships in a manner that is both easy to understand and appropriate for the form of communication, and clearly distinguish paid reviews, testimonials and endorsements from other editorial content. Marketers are prohibited from disguising reviews as being from impartial sources, and boosting user engagement through fraudulent means such as the purchase of ‘likes’ and the creation of fake accounts.

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The Advertising Regulatory Board has issued rules for brands and influencers on social media to ensure the protection of consumers and the promotion of ethical conduct by brand marketers and their representatives across all social media platforms and activities.

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In 2020, the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) amended the Guidelines on Review of Labelling and Advertising Regarding Recommendations and Endorsements, introducing a regulatory framework for influencer regulations regarding sponsored content. The guidelines not only specify that a sponsorship disclosure should be placed for any sponsored post but also that it should be placed near the content in a manner that will be readily noticeable to consumers. These guidelines also apply to all the content published before 2020, forcing the content creators to go back through their catalogue and edit each sponsored post.

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In 2020, the Spanish Association of Advertisers and the self-regulatory body “Autocontrol” issued the Code of Conduct on the use of Influencers in Advertising, to which companies have signed up. The Advertising Jury of the Code receives and rules on complaints about content, and decisions are binding for all signatories.

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The Swedish Consumer Agency has produced a guide to help those who blog or write in other social medias to do the right thing.

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In 2021 the Board of Advertisement published a Guideline which regulates the principles regarding advertisements made by social media influencers. The purpose of the Guideline is to provide guidance for all individuals, institutions and organizations that advertise, as well as advertising agencies and media organizations related to commercial advertising and commercial practices by social media influencers.

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In the UK, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have launched a guide to help social influencers to stick to the rules by making clear when their posts are ads. The Influencers’ Guide has been developed in collaboration with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

This ‘Influencers’ guide’ sets out: what the rules are, when content should be disclosed, advice around affiliate marketing, how to make it clear ads are ads, visual examples of best practice and what happens if content isn’t disclosed.

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In the USA, The FTC’s Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers and its accompanying videos  remind influencers of their legal obligations when posting on social media. These publications build upon and clarify key guidance from the FTC concerning influencer marketing, namely the FTC’s Endorsement Guides and Frequently Asked Questions guidance document.

This guidance applies to all posts – even those posted by influencers outside the US – if it is reasonably foreseeable that a post may affect U.S. consumers.

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In addition, the FTC has issued “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”.  This document also clarifies to what extent “Endorsement” includes fake reviews, virtual influencers, and tags in social media.

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