Content creators stand divided over the new rules by the ASCI indicating influencers may be required to declare paid partnerships
Content creators stand divided over the new rules by the ASCI indicating influencers may be required to declare paid partnerships

HT Brunch Sunday Debate: Restrain or welcome change?

Two digital creators argue if the proposed guidelines by the Advertising Standards Council of India to make it mandatory for digital creators to disclose “paid posts” on their social media handles, are a boon or bane
By Riaan Jacob George, Vasudha Rai
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 07:14 PM IST

“I’ve almost never declared my paid partnerships because they are not forced!”

By Riaan Jacob George

Riaan says he’s having to bear the brunt of a section of creators that have assumed the role of advertising billboards
Riaan says he’s having to bear the brunt of a section of creators that have assumed the role of advertising billboards

While my primary source of income as a content creator is brand partnerships and endorsements, I ensure I make the content honest and experience-based. I’ve almost never declared my paid partnerships because my endorsements are not forced. I’ll talk about your product and accept money to do so only if I truly resonate with the brand or feel like I can add a spin on the brand that can benefit the consumer. That said, we are currently looking at upstart creators blindly endorsing cars when they don’t drive, whiskey when they don’t drink or fast food they don’t eat. I’m having to bear the brunt of a section of creators that have assumed the role of advertising billboards as opposed to opinion leader, content curator or taste maker.

With the new rules drafted by the ASCI, Indian influencers, meaning creators, bloggers and influencers, are required to declare they are being paid to talk about or endorse a brand. While on paper this is a great way to separate wheat from chaff, ensure integrity and transparency, I have mixed feelings. Given that I come from a traditional journalistic background and continue to practise it, I am committed to making my content credible and authentic. If and when the ASCI rules do come in, I will gladly play by them. I’m not sure about how I feel about my feed sporting the ‘ad’ banner or the ‘paid collab’ banner, given that social media is all about personal style and experiences.

Riaan George is a luxury and travel content creator based in Mumbai and Colombo. He also teaches French and is learning Italian.

“When brands became clients to influencers, creators lost some credibility”

By Vasudha Rai

According to Vasudha Rai, there’s no shame in making money — it’s only cringe when it isn’t clearly declared!
According to Vasudha Rai, there’s no shame in making money — it’s only cringe when it isn’t clearly declared!

The ASCI has issued a draft code for paid content on social media. It is proposed that all sponsored posts must be revealed as advertisements upfront, instead of the current norm of #AD towards the bottom. I welcome this. If we can switch television channels during a commercial break and thumb through ads in a magazine, we should be able to identify sponsored posts and swipe past them.

The proposal also doesn’t allow the usage of filters in ads, as the results could be misleading. If you got influenced into buying a cream because of someone’s perfect *cough* (filtered) skin, you’ve already paid the price for poor advertising practices. Print has been bashed for decades for setting unreal standards of beauty. It’s only natural it extend to social media.

Influencers became popular because their content wasn’t branded. But when brands became their clients, they lost some credibility. Just like magazines were paid for sponsored covers or shoots (that didn’t look like ads), content creators are also expected to post without the ‘paid partnership’ tag.

These guidelines aren’t just empowering the audience but also the influencer. Content creators will finally have the right to refuse poor advertising practices and reclaim their power. There’s no shame in making money - it’s only cringe when it isn’t clearly declared.

Vasudha Rai is a Delhi-based beauty influencer, who has earlier worked as the beauty director at leading Indian magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and Cosmopolitan.

From HT Brunch, March 7, 2021

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