Traditional journalists and news organizations abide by a code of ethics that help guide their decisions regarding sponsored content, ie: unlike influencers, they don’t get paid to sway their readers opinion on behalf of a brand. Governing influencers by the same code of ethics will be an uphill battle as the space matures, because of the volume of individual influencers that are producing branded content. Because influencer marketing has proven to be a growing and effective marketing tactic, we believe that, on behalf of our clients, it is our moral and legal responsibility to put systems in place to help influencers adhere to the FTC Guidelines Concerning the Use of Endorsements or Testimonials in Advertising, FTC Endorsement Guidelines for short.
Here are some of the ways that FRWD helps our clients in their influencer marketing efforts.
#1: Include and enforce transparency language in our contracts
Influencer Endorsement Transparency Requirements
- Tag the sponsor (a clear indication to the reader that the content is endorsed)
- Ensure the words sponsored post, #ad, and/or #sponsored appear in proximity to all messages. If video is used, indication that the content is sponsored must be used in the video content (similar to native advertising rules)
- Don’t attempt to hide the disclosure/sponsorship language
#2: Vet our influencers closely to ensure a professional level of conduct and transparency in their work
#3: Partner with influencer networks or influencers to create a system for easily vetting if they have the proper education and past compliance with FTC guidelines. In the near future, we envision a “transparency compliance pledge” will be included in influencer networks that will help us easily score and vet influencers.
In our experience, the performance of Influencer programs are not hurt by requiring transparency, frankly, we see transparent programs perform more favorably with audiences and build more trust between the audience and the sponsor. Brands that have process and proper documentation in place to empower marketing teams and agencies to aim for transparency and accountability will win out in the influencer marketing space and most importantly, avoid compliance issues that will degrade trust and overall brand loyalty.