A year ago Stephen Clarke and Rab Shields made their fortune on social media capitalising on their fitness knowledge combined with their Scottish charm and kilted workout sessions. From personal trainers they quickly became internet celebrities gaining millions of views on YouTube and fans on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter while being able to promote fitness brands.
L’Oréal is shifting their focus from celebrities such as Cheryl Cole to bloggers and vloggers, who are a more cost effective option and often serve a more niche with a more relevant audience. Influencers also offer more expertise and are perceived by consumers as more credible through their product reviews because of unbiased opinions. Huda Kattan, Cameron Dallas and Jen Selter provide ‘hidden’ advertising and product placements making up to tens of thousands pounds per post on their or other companies’ offerings.
Influencer marketing consists in the diffusion of images, videos and text endorsing brands across blogs and social network from individuals who became popular through their postings. This form of advertising is not evident and recently became object of interest for the European Antitrust (competition legislation) and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for often misleading consumer’s choice.
These ads, in fact, may be difficult to distinguish from normal posts and therefore violate the consumer protection law. National authorities like the British CMA and the Italian Antitrust recently started sending moral suasion letters to some of the top influencers as well as the advertisers, inviting them to disclose the advertising nature of their endorsements. Starcom Mediavest was on the list after arranging endorsements in online articles and bogs on behalf of MyJar, without making clear it was for advertising purposes.
The International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network has recently published a set of guidelines around online reviews and endorsement aimed at giving guidance to marketers around the world on how to be upfront and clear in regards to their advertising aims. You may now notice strings and hashtags within the text specifying that you’re looking at an advert like in the picture.
In conclusion Influencer marketing seems to be a channel of preference for advertisers’ product placements, due to their cost advantages and their higher relevance. The legislator, however, only recently started to set clear boundaries in order to protect consumer’s perception of the posts they’re seeing. This will also guarantee overall commercial and ethical reasoning which consumers appreciate.