What are we talking about?
In May 2019, the Observatory of French Advertising Self-Regulatory Organization (ARPP) published a guide called "Influence Marketing: The goods practices".
This Observatory studied more than 500 campaigns broadcasted on several social networks during the second semester of 2018, in order to encourage and promote good practices related to influence marketing.
The analysed contents have been classified according to different categories: bad practices, practices that can be improved and good practices.
What are the bad practices?
As a reminder, French law requires that the advertising nature of a content must be clearly identified:
- Law No. 2004-575 of 21 June 2004 for confidence in the digital economy ("LCEN") states in its article 20: "Any ad, in any form whatsoever, accessible through an online public communication service, must be clearly identifiable as such. It must clearly identify the natural or legal person on whose behalf it is carried out".
- Law No. 2008-776 of 4 August 2008 on the modernization of the economy, assimilates the fact of not making identifiable the person on whose behalf a commercial communication is implemented to a misleading commercial practice.
These legal provisions are reflected in the following ethical rule set out by the ARPP in its recommendation "Digital advertising communication": "The existence of a commercial collaboration between an influencer and an advertiser for the publication of content must in all cases be brought to the public's attention by the influencer".
However, the Observatory has noticed that 12% of the contents analysed do not indicate at all the existence of a commercial partnership between the influencer and the brand.
What are the practices that can be improved?
For 33% of the contents analysed by the Observatory, if there is a reference to the existence of a partnership between the influencer and the brand, it is not sufficiently explicit and/or not instantaneous.
Examples of partnerships that are not identified in a sufficiently explicit way:
- #AD : The tag "#ad" is a common practice on social networks, but not sufficiently clear to identify a partnership with a brand. Indeed, the ARPP considers that French consumers are not familiar with this term so that they cannot identify it as a reference to a commercial partnership.
- *AD : In addition to not allowing the partnership to be clearly indicated, this term also prevents the publication from going up among the ads associated with the tag "#ad".
- Acknowledgements : The fact of thanking a brand does not clearly indicate the existence of a partnership with this brand. As the Observatory points out, a brand may have offered a gift to an influencer without any commitment to talk about the product or service at stake.
- The expressions such as "I was offered to test...", "I was contacted for...", etc. : Such kind of expressions are too vague to clearly indicate whether there are reciprocal commitments between the influencer and a brand.
ARPP’s recommendation: prefer the use of hashtags #pub, #sponsorisé or #collaboration.
Examples of partnerships that are not instantly identified:
The advertising nature of an influencer’s content must be instantly visible to the consumer, without having to carry out any additional research. It is therefore important to avoid:
- the identification of the partnership drowned in several hashtags or included at the end of a long publication;
- the identification of a partnership after several Instagram "stories".
ARPP’s recommendation: use social networks’ functionalities that allow partnerships to be easily identified. For instance, on Instagram the mention "Paid partnership with XX" will be indicated under the influencer's pseudonym when posting a content. On YouTube, this information will be automatically integrated into the video.
What are the other areas of non-compliance ?
While the ARPP’s primarily focus was the issue of the identification of a partnership between the influencers and the brands, the ARPP identified other issues.
As a reminder, in addition to the above obligation to identify the commercial nature of an influencer’s content, this content may be subject to other rules.
In particular, when the brand exercises:
- a preponderant control over the product or service-oriented discourse, and
- a validation of the content before it goes online,
this content is also subject to all the ethical rules applicable to advertising professionals (i.e. ARPP Recommendations), among which:
- The ARPP Recommendation called "Eating Behaviours", regarding consumption contexts and the presentation of certain dangerous behaviours;
- The ARPP Recommendation called "Alcohol" (drawn up in the light of the so-called "Evin" Law of 10 January 1991 to fight alcoholism).
Finally, in a more general way, the ARPP reminds us that influencers, insofar as their voices have a strong impact on the public and their community, must respect the principles of any responsible communication: loyalty towards their public, truthfulness in their content, transparency in their speaking out, as well as the protection of young audiences.