ISBA launches 'industry standard' code of conduct for influencer marketing

Infleuncers: have also faced criticism in the past for not declaring free gifts from brands
Infleuncers: have also faced criticism in the past for not declaring free gifts from brands

Code aims to raise standards and smooth relationships between industry participants.

ISBA has worked with talent agencies and a group of influencers to launch a Code of Conduct for Influencer Marketing, which aims to become an industry standard.

Influencer marketing has been beset by problems over the years that threaten trust between brands, agencies, influencers and consumers. In April, a study by HypeAuditor found that more than half of influencers were involved in some kind of fraud or fakery

In June, reality stars Chloe Ferry and Lucy Mecklenburgh were among those called out by the Advertising Standards Authority for failing to disclose paid ads. And there have been longstanding suggestions that influencers of colour are often paid less than their white counterparts.

The new code, which has been driven by ISBA members, is not a set of rules, rather a guide to best practice that contains commitments from brands, agencies and talent. While not a binding legal document, it could be appended to legal contracts. 

ISBA said the code would aim to:

  • Deliver the transparency consumers expect and deserve – by being clear on the need to disclose when an ad is an ad (and how); by committing not to use photo filters and misleading editing techniques; and by meeting obligations to protect children and vulnerable groups

  • Enable authentic and effective influencer marketing – by backing influencers to deliver their honest opinion on products; supporting their wellbeing, from mental to financial health; and always promoting diversity and inclusion, with zero tolerance for hateful content

  • Improve brand/agency/talent relationships – by setting out how all participants will work collaboratively on campaigns; agencies committing to play a key role in aligning brands and talent; and with clarity from brands on KPIs and from influencers on helping to demonstrate ROI.

ISBA said that brands from across its membership, talent agencies and influencers have agreed to adhere to the code. It complements template contracts ISBA published in 2018, which will now be updated in line with the code.

ISBA director-general Phil Smith said: “Influencer marketing is a powerful tool. In a world where advertising has suffered from a loss of trust, and where consumers are more likely to believe in the recommendations of a peer or ‘someone like me’, influencer campaigns offer the chance for individuals, agencies and brands to work together, using new platforms to reach audiences in engaging ways.

“At its best, influencer marketing allows for authentic, personalised ads, delivered in a transparent way. However, if done incorrectly, it can cause reputational damage to influencers and brands alike. 

“There is no excuse for failing to disclose when an ad is an ad, or for misleading consumers with photo editing. Equally, influencers often face real challenges when it comes to financial flows and mental health. Meanwhile, brands know influencer marketing can be effective, but struggle to demonstrate ROI.”

Scott Guthrie, director-general of the Influencer Marketing Trade Body, which is due to launch later this year, said there were now 1,360 influencer platforms and agencies worldwide – a more than seven-fold increase from the 190 five years ago. 

“It’s inevitable that while most incumbents are good actors, there will be some who do not act in good faith,” he said. “Marking yourself out as one of the good guys starts with accountability. Signing up to this code demonstrates that commitment to accountability.”

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