🗽 FTC issues influencer update guidelines
112 | FTC's first revision around endorsements and influencers for 14 years
Issue #112 | Your reading time this week is 7 mins. 25 secs.
Welcome back to the Creator Briefing. Here’s just some of what we’re looking at this week:
FTC’s new guidelines around endorsements and influencer content
KSI & Logan Paul get bottled on stage - it’s only a stunt
North Korea turns to YouTubers to spread misinformation
Aussie influencer tech firm first to get its methodology audited
Influencer marketers forecast strong sector growth in two surveys
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FTC issues influencer update guidelines
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued new guidelines around influencers and endorsements. We’ve waited a long time for the update. The last Endorsement Guides were revised 14 years ago in 2009.
Given the long wait, it’s a wonder the FTC didn’t wait just a few more days and publish after the July 4th celebrations. Instead, the release came late last week ahead of the federal holiday in the US. That aside, what can we learn?
Here are the main revisions:
A new principle regarding procuring, suppressing, boosting, organising, publishing, upvoting, downvoting, or editing consumer reviews so as to distort what consumers think of a product;
Addressing incentivized reviews, reviews by employees, and fake negative reviews of a competitor;
Adding a definition of “clear and conspicuous” and saying that a platform’s built-in disclosure tool might not be an adequate disclosure;
Changing the definition of “endorsements” to clarify the extent to which it includes fake reviews, virtual influencers, and tags in social media;
Better explaining the potential liability of advertisers, endorsers, and intermediaries; and
Highlighting that child-directed advertising is of special concern.
Kids need to be protected differently to adults - “Children and teens can react differently from adults. A disclosure that works with adults might not work with younger individuals. Indeed, research suggests that disclosures will not work for younger children. Accordingly, advertisers and endorsers should be particularly careful in their use of endorsements directed to this audience.” Perhaps unhelpfully the FTC doesn’t provide suggestions on what would work best to declare ads to kids and teens.
Tough on TikTok - The text description on TikTok is in small print, it doesn’t stand out, and it often doesn’t contrast against the background of the video. Also, TikTok videos often have many competing elements. FTC reasons that placing a disclosure in the text description is very unlikely to be clear and conspicuous. New guidelines suggest that we content creators want viewers to read something, they should superimpose much larger text over their videos.
De-influencing - If a creator criticises a competitor of a brand that s/he’s paid to endorse, s/he should disclose his/her paid relationship.
Free stuff - The word “Gifted,” by itself without a brand reference, won’t cut it. However, “Gifted by XYZ” (when XYZ is a brand name) should be okay to denote when all the creator’s received is a free product.
Travel influencers - If a brand takes the creator on a paid-for trip, all resulting content should be disclosed. The exceptions would be either if a post is non-promotional, e.g., a close-up of the influencer’s child without tags or other clues as to the location. Or if the creators posts about a shop for instance just because they like it and the shop has nothing to do with the paid-for trip.
Two FTC documents provide all the info:
An 84-page tome titled: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising
and a FAQ webpage titled: FTC's Endorsement Guides: What People Are Asking
FTC considers ban on buying fake followers
In a bid to turn back time to 2016 the FTC is seeking comments on proposed measures that would fight deceptive practices including a ban on buying or selling fake social media followers or views to misrepresent their importance for a commercial purpose.
Influence is King
Prime stunt: KSI & Paul pelted with bottles
Someone once stubbed a cigarette out in my mouth whilst I was singing karaoke very poorly in a pub down the Bethnal Green Road. Logan Paul and KSI appear to have added a similar move to their Prime Hydration marketing playbook.
«Vi må få det til å se ut som dere hater oss» sa KSI. Se mer fra dagen hos @vgramp også 💖 #ksi #ksiolajidebt #loganpaul #prime #oslo
Last week as the YouTuber duo launched Prime in Copenhagen the crowd pelted them with Prime bottles. Unlike my experience at the Salmon and Ball in 1989 the pelting was a stunt designed to grab yet more attention from the mainstream media.
We’ve talked in the past about Prime’s marketing strategy.
Thanks for the feedback
Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to vote through the satisfaction poll. I’ve had some great written feedback, too (you can leave a private comment when you vote). Keep the voting coming and do leave me a comment either privately through the satisfaction poll or in the comment section at the end of this newsletter.
North Korea turns to YouTubers to spread propaganda
Three North Korean YouTubers had their channels deleted by the platform this week after authorities in Seoul moved to crack down on a network of North Korean propaganda channels.
One YouTube account, fronted by 11-year-old Song-a banged on about Harry Potter and amusement parks. The girl’s videos gave the impression that she is an ordinary North Korean schoolgirl who’s taught English at home by her mother. But according to analysts at NK Pro cited in a Financial Times article, she is the daughter of a North Korean diplomat previously based in London, the granddaughter of a vice foreign minister and the great-granddaughter of a venerated Korean war-era general.
And, if that’s not enough Colin Zwirko, an analyst at NK Pro, reminds the FT that ordinary North Koreans don’t have access to the internet so Song-a and her pals would be hard-pressed to upload any content to the web.
Speaking of ‘banging on about’ stuff: I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about influencers being used to spread disinformation lately. Last week we talked about the influencers visit to the Shein factory. The week before we discussed the Reuters Institute Digital News Report which concluded that half of us turns to influencers for mainstream news stories ahead of journalists across TikTok (55% vs 33%), Snapchat (55% vs 36%), and Instagram (52% vs 42%).
The figures, whilst a boon for the creator economy, do throw up questions around disinformation and misinformation. Good decision-making depends on people having reliable, accurate facts placed before them within a meaningful context.
New survey: strong influencer marketing growth forecast
Senior marketers forecast further strong market growth, especially in influencer marketing finds a new survey on the UK branded content industry.
The survey also identifies the greatest challenges facing branded content marketers:
Demonstrating the value and purpose of their work to clients
Seeing greater inclusion and diversity in promotional campaigns
Improving job satisfaction
Addressing pay and conditions
Improving consumer trust
The survey was conducted by the Branded Content Research Hub at the University of the Arts London.
DECLARATION: I am an advisory board member of the Branded Content Research Hub and a project partner, to the Branded Content Governance Project. I was also interviewed for the report.
New influencer policy briefing
The Online Advertising Regulation: Policy Briefing was launched at the same time last week as the survey on the UK branded content industry (see story above). The briefing covers a period of intense scrutiny on how to regulate advertising online and via influencer marketing, involving consultations by the UK Government and the House of Commons Culture Committee.
The policy briefing examines these developments in the UK but sets them in a wider European context and includes a report on related policy developments in Spain.
Jonathan Hardy, Professor of Communications and Media at UAL and project lead, argues that regulations have not kept pace with developments in digital media and that the different treatment of communications across media leads to gaps and anomalies.
The Policy Briefing presents initial research work from the Branded Content Governance Project, a three-year international study of the rules and rule-making processes by which content that is produced or funded by marketers is addressed in 32 countries, with an enhanced research focus on the UK and Spain.
New survey: Creator marketing boosts UK retail sales
Over half (54%) of UK businesses currently investing in influencer marketing have increased their budgets this year. This is according to new research from YouGov commissioned by LTK.
Whilst a quarter (24%) of overall marketing budgets are being cut influencer marketing remains resilient according to the survey results.
69% of brands surveyed experienced value in how influencer marketing improves brand awareness.
62% have seen influencer marketing directly drive sales growth.
31% of respondents said influencers helped improve brand sentiment.
46% said they planned to focus for expanding their use of more diverse casting over the next 12 months
Beyond social media, LTK’s research found that the top reasons to work with influencers include
46% to amplify events
31% for in-store marketing and activations
NOTE: I was unable to immediately locate details on the sample size of this survey.
Meta shares how it ranks content
Meta is working to share more information about how its ranks content in feeds, Rees and Stories via AI. The company which owns Instagram and Facebook says it wants to make it easier for users to control what they see on the platforms. Meta also says it’s creating new tools to help support public interest research.
Online Safety Bill focuses on children
Children are to be better protected under the Online Safety Bill after further amendments were made by the government as the bill passes through the House of Lords.
Planned rules to prevent children from viewing pornography, content that promotes suicide, self-harm, or eating disorders have been bolstered.
The changes also mean that the laws protecting children from encountering harmful content and activity online - as well as the codes and guidance issued by the regulator - will come into force as quickly as possible after the Online Safety Bill has passed.
Q83 becomes first influencer firm to receive methodology audit
Q83, an Australian-based tech company that delivers transparent reporting for the influencer marketing industry, has become the first firm in the sector to receive a bespoke methodology audit from ABC.
ABC is a leading industry-owned auditor for media products and services, with specialist skills in digital ad trading.
The launch of Q83’s Account Performance Audit Report (APAR) within its Kitly and Kitly Business platforms brings new transparency and consistency to media buyers who procure organic social media ad space from multiple sources, from magazines and newspapers to influencers.
The audit aim is to reassure both businesses and influencers that reporting via the APAR adheres to standardised processes, and that the data can be trusted.
The ABC has also accredited APAR for Kitly and Kitly Business under ABC’s Certified Supplier programme, demonstrating that it’s capable of reporting data to ABC’s industry-agreed standards.
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