The influencer who faked her death to promote a good cause


Issue #133 | Your reading time this week is 6 mins. 45 secs.

Welcome back to the Creator Briefing.

Here’s some of what I’ve been thinking about this week:

  • The ethics around the influencer who faked her death to promote a good cause

  • How a draft Spanish influencer law measures against UK regulation

  • Audience Whiplash - THE FIFTH publishes a report about the cost-of-living crisis and how brands can empathise with customers

  • Ex Love Islander Tasha Ghouri encapsulates both the highs and lows of influencer marketing

  • Stanley cups, the TikTok triumph, faces a class-action lawsuit

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Influencer fakes death to promote good cause

Earlier this week an Instagram post announced the death of Poonam Pandey, an Indian actor, model and influencer. The post was a stunt designed to heighten awareness of cervical cancer. 

The following day Pandley posted a Reel exclaiming “I am alive. I didn’t die because of cervical cancer.”

The stunt provoked a major backlash. Nearly 50,000 Instagram users liked one of the Reel’s comments which said “WORST PUBLICITY STUNT EVER!”

Later the same day the social media agency behind the initiative issued a sorry-not-sorry apology via Instagram

In a post-truth, liar's dividend world of deepfakes, misinformation and disinformation such, no doubt, well-intentioned 'stunts' erode audience trust in our sector and, worse still, might have an adverse effect on cervical cancer prevention.

Google Trends: Search term “cervical cancer” for India in past week

If everything is 'fair game' to grab attention - no matter how worthy the cause or compelling the communication such initiatives will erode the impact influencer marketing holds over shaping public behaviour. 

The campaign created a great spark of attention. But, according to Google Trends at least, the surge was short lived. What will be the legacy of this ill-conceived campaign?


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Tasha Ghouri encapsulates highs and lows of influencer marketing 

Tasha Ghouri, content creator and ex Love Islander has managed to encapsulate both the highs and lows of influencer marketing - all within a fortnight. 

Ghouri was the first deaf contestant on TV reality show Love Island in 2022. The 25-year old spoke freely on the show about her cochlear implant and sufferred from online trolls and ableism as a consequence. 

Perhaps as a response to the online abuse it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that Ghouri uploaded her first TikTok speaking in her ‘deaf accent.’

“Let’s start normalising deaf accents” begins Ghouri in a ‘get ready with me’ edit continuing “I don’t know how loud I’m speaking or how clear I’m speaking. But, I thought …, let’s start normalising it”.

The reaction to her video has been very positive. Watched 3m times it’s generated a third of a million likes and over 1,000 comments which have ranged from support, to seeking more information about cochlear implants to simply asking what cosmetics she’s using. Raising awareness and fostering better understanding changes attitudes. 

Effective influencer marketing is representative not only of advertisers but also the culture and values of the moment. If we misrepresent our audience, we risk alienating that audience. 

That’s why the treating of all people with equity, without discrimination on the basis of gender, class, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability is enschrined within the Influencer Code of Conduct jointly owned by ISBA and IMTB.

Tasha Ghouri placed on ASA’s naughty step

On the flipside to Ghouri’s positive activism comes the news that this week the ASA placed her on its influencer naughty step - the sanction the ad regulator terms its 'Non-compliant social media influencers' webpage.

The page specifically names repeat offending influencers who break the rules around disclosing their ads. Those on the list either failed to provide the assurance that they would comply with the rules on the first instance, or subsequently reneged on it and are subject to a period of enhanced monitoring checks.

Hidden advertising by influencers is a major source of complaint to the ASA. This non-identified advertising erodes trust in influencer marketing with our audiences. 

Research by the Advertising Association’s trust in advertising working group lists ‘suspicous advertising’ (which includes hidden advertising) as a major negative driver for trust in advertising. 

DECLARATION: - I’m the director general of the Influencer Marketing Trade Body. The IMTB is a CAP member and part of the Trust in Advertising working group. 

Spain set to get tough on influencers

Draft proposals by Spanish law makers layout plans to protect young consumers from influencers promoting alcohol, tobacco, slimming products or products promoting unrealistic body image, and cosmetic surgery.

If successful the new law will be implemented in Q1, 2024. As I understand it the regulations only apply to influencers: 

  • Earning > €500,000 a year

  • With >2m followers

  • Posting video with audio

Influencer content promoting gambling would be restricted to between 01:00 and 05:00 under the scheme. 

UK and age-restricted influencer ads

Rules around age-restricted influencer marketing is well established in the UK. 

Ads for the following products or services must not be directed at people under 18 through the selection of media or the context in which they appear. No medium should be used to advertise these products or services if more than 25% of its audience is under 18 years of age: 

  • Alcohol (rule 18.15) 

  • Cosmetic interventions (rule 12.25) 

  • Gambling (excluding products specified in the next section) (rule 16.3.13) 

  • National Lottery (rule 17.14)

  • Rolling papers or filters (rule 21.5) 

  • Weight-reduction regimes or establishments (rule 13.3)

Spain's proposal to call out high-profile influencers (i.e. those with >2m followers) would, no doubt, generate significant media attention and potential reputational harm for the sponsoring brands. Plus the message would be driven home to aspiring up-and-coming influencers.

Success will depend on whether this draft legislation is part of a long-term change management programme -- i.e. tackling the handful of high-profile, ‘mega’ influencers first to build awareness with the whole industry ecosystem to set about effective change.

The €500k+ revenue threshold pre-supposes that all creators accurately capture their full earnings including receipt of gifts and free services. 

'Cost of Living Crisis: How 'Audience Whiplash' Is Driving the Misdirection of Marketing Spend

Dupe culture and de-influencing are not just Gen Z behaviours - according to new research from THE FIFTH in collaboration with MAD//Fest.

😲 Those with a middle income and no children are 21% more likely to shop for dupes than Gen Z. 

😲 Middle-income consumers are also 42% more likely to exhibit conservative shopping behaviours, due to mortgage and rent anxiety.

The new report contends that brands are failing to adapt to the fragmented national psyche defined by increasingly nuanced attitudes. This results in misaligned campaigns, reputational harm and wasted budgets.

This misalignment has been accelerated by the current cost-of-living crisis resulting in consumer alienation. 1-in-2 adult UK consumers say ads currently lack empathy and fail to reflect their financial concerns.

THE FIFTH terms this phenomenon: audience whiplash -- the violent divergence of attitudes within age and socio-economic-based audience demographics that were previously considered to be largely homogeneous.

The report digs into 

  • The risks, opportunities and outlook for ‘non-essential categories’ including streaming services, beauty + travel

  • How savvy brands are leveraging audience research, insight and  social listening to keep abreast of volatile consumer trends

ASA offers some guidance for deepfakes in advertising

We’ve written before about deepfakes and this topic will continue throughout 2024 as its use cases pile up.  

For instance aside from attempting to sway voters and the creation of porno versions of Taylor Swift - deepfakes are being used to swindle businesses out of millions. Fraudsters created a deepfake of a Hong Kong CFO and earlier this week used the virtual human to trick an employee into transferring $25m.

Legislation has to be created to protect society from this new technology. But legislation is necessarily slow to put into law. Gillian Tett puts forward a way to speed up the process. Writing in the FT Tett says deepfakes are essentially counterfeit humans. So, to get ahead, we should explore how governments have battled “counterfeits” in other realms - i.e. bank notes. 

What about the use of deepfakes in advertising? The ASA is yet to rule on any ads featuring them and there isn’t a separate section of the CAP Code that deals with AI-generated ads. 

This means any ads the ASA might assess that use deepfake technology to employ manipulated video, imagery or audio for marketing purposes, will have the relevant existing sections of the Code applied to them. 

Such ads will need to, for example, comply with the rules around misleading advertising, especially the rules concerning testimonials and endorsements.

The week the ASA posted some sage advice to advertisers contemplating using counterfeit humans in their campaigns:

  • “Err on the side of caution – aside from any regulatory hot water you might end up in, you could well get in trouble with the public figure you’ve decided to use in your ad.

  • Personality rights and Intellectual Property are not issues for the ASA, but it’s always worth considering any potential legal action you may be opening yourself up to with your advertising.

  • While the ASA only regulates legitimate advertising, the ASA Scam Ad Alert System could come into play if they receive reports of ads using deepfake technology for nefarious purposes.”

Labelling AI-generated content

Meta is pushing for standardised labels to help viewers understand when they’re interacting with artificially created photos, videos or audio material across its platforms.

Their preferred tech specs are IPTC and C2PA standards - where metadata embedded within the content carries the content’s provenance. 

Meta isn’t alone, Adobe has dedicated years to lobbying its peers to adopt the C2PA standard. Last year the company launched the Content Authenticity Initiative.

… and relax. Report shows how the UK spends its downtime

Pretty Green has released a report ‘The Play Book: A deep dive into the UK’s downtime’. The work shares new insights about how the UK is prioritising its leisure time in 2024, and which paid activities and experiences are stealing the biggest share of time and wallet.

A few survey highlights 

  • Millenials are the most lucrative audience for social hospitality. Around a third still actively go out each week. They spend the most in pubs/bars/clubs compared with other age groups.

  • 1-in-5 UK adults spend their leisure time developing their body and mind, by being creative (18%), learning new things (20%) and doing things that improve their health & wellbeing (22%).

  • Bars, pubs, and nightclubs are set to become of the biggest losers of the downtime pound. Hospitality brands will need to work harder to stand out and win a share of wallet in the year ahead.

Survey methodology: The survey was conducted through an online omnibus survey by Opinium in late November 2023. 2,000 UK adults were surveyed, nationally representative of age, gender, region, and social grade.

Stanley cup faces class-action law suit

Four women from California, US, have joined forces to push for a class action law suit against Stanley’s use of lead in the insulated cups.

The law suit accuses Stanley’s owner, Pacific Market International (PMI), of deceptive practices by failing to inform consumers about the presence of lead in the products. 

Filed in Los Angeles state court, the plaintiffs are pushing for class action status, claiming that PMI marketed the Stanley cups as both safe and durable despite being aware of the lead contained in the vacuum seals of the cups.

The California consumers allege Stanley failed to disclose the lead risk to "its primary target market ... professional young women of childbearing age."

The request for relief? +$70m in compensatory damages.

The Stanley cup blew up on TikTok last year thanks to the firm’s influencer marketing efforts and a fleet-of-foot company response to a customer’s car fire

The #StanleyTumbler has over one billion views on TikTok. Last Christmas the insulated cup was one of Gen Z’s most in-demand gifts and customers are rushing to buyout stock ahead of Valentine’s Day, too.

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