In the course of this week, the UK Competition and Markets Authority published a guidance note on Influencer Marketing and introduced new requirements which influencers should abide by.

Popular bloggers, vloggers, celebrities and social media personalities (also referred to as ‘influencers’) can have a lot of influence over people’s buying decisions if they promote a product or service in their posts.

Per the Authority, people need to know if influencers have been paid, incentivised or in any way rewarded to endorse or review something in their posts. It’s important that they make this clear to their followers. This includes when a product or service has been given to them for free.

This needs to be clearly stated when a product, brand or service is tagged, linked or endorsed in any way.

Under UK law, where influencers mislead followers, in certain instances they may be breaking consumer protection law or industry rules on advertising, and could face enforcement action from the CMA, local authority Trading Standards services or the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland.

What Influencers Must Do

  • Say when paid, given or loaned things
    Any form of reward, including money, gifts of services or products, or the loan of a product, is deemed to be a form ‘payment’ – whether originally asked for or got sent it out of the blue (e.g. ‘freebies’).
  • Be clear about the relationship with a brand or business
    Where they are including discount codes, competitions or giveaways, or references to the influencer’s own range of products. Influencers should make sure they are transparent and state that the post is a promotion.

The influencer marketing scene has steadily grown over the past few years in Kenya. We have witnessed a large growing class of ‘social media celebrities’ from Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Brands and Marketing agencies have also taken note of these and regularly engage influencers to promote their brands, products, offers and sale deals.

We do have clear legislation and regulation on consumer protection and advertising on traditional media channels. The truth however, is that there is a grey area with regard to the regulation of influencers as an advertising vertical.

The documentary ‘Fyre Festival’ on Netflix is a telling reality of the influence that influencers can have over a demographic.

In short per Forbes, here ;

‘About two years ago, a young charismatic character, Billy McFarland, planned an over-the-top luxury music festival on a beautiful exotic beach in the Bahamas to bring awareness to his new entertainment app, created along with his business partner, rapper Ja Rule. To promote the spectacularly posh event, McFarland enlisted the help of top international models and social media influencers to generate buzz and an air of exclusivity around the festival. Their Instagram account blew up as Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski and other models and influencers posted pictures and videos of themselves frolicking and enjoying the beautiful secluded beach on a private island—once owned by the drug lord, Pablo Escobar.

The Fyre Festival looked like it would be the hottest destination designed for rich, hip, young Millennials. Desiring to join this elite getaway, thousands of people purchased expensive tickets to attend. The promotional materials claimed that there would be top musical acts, private villas, top-shelf alcoholic beverages and lush lavish meals.’

Unfortunately, due to several issues including poor management style, hiring inexperienced, naive and gullible staff, short timelines, withdrawal of certain vendors, cancellation of the musical performers, the festival was an unmitigated disaster.

In Kenya, we have seen instances where influencers recommend or push for the attendance of certain events which don’t pan out as planned or use of products that don’t deliver on what is promised.

UK Influencers are required to not be misleading. It’s important that they don’t give the impression that:

  • they are just a consumer when they’re actually acting for own business purposes or on behalf of a brand or other business;
  • they have bought something that was given as a gift or on loan; and
  • they have used the service or product, if they haven’t.

Should we then have clear rules that stipulate how influencers engage with users? Should they have an obligation to report or indicate when a post or a video is sponsored? Should there be full or partial disclosure? And in the event that they do not comply with the rules, should they be held liable?

The underlying ethos of consumer protection law requires that ads must not be misleading.

Over to the Competition Authority of Kenya, CAK whose mandate includes participating in deliberations and proceedings of government, government commissions, regulatory authorities and other bodies in relation to competition and consumer welfare.

You can read the note here.