There is some change afoot that will be of particular interest to brand owners and social media influencers.

In the past the pair have worked in tandem when it comes to using social media an effective platform for advertising, but the South African Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) is bringing a significant set of guidelines to the fore that will change how things operate.

This according to Jeanette Visage, senior associate, and Jenny Pienaar, partner, at legal firm Adams & Adams.

“Following in the footsteps of other countries, the South African Advertising Regulatory Board will shortly be issuing a set of local guidelines on acceptable social media marketing and advertising, including brand promotion through the use of influencers,” they explain.

“Members of the ARB are bound by the Code of Advertising Practice and will, therefore, be required to comply with the new social media guidelines. In addition, it is presumed that all businesses or organisations that are members of these three bodies, also have an obligation to comply with the Code, and to abide by ARB rulings on advertising disputes,” they add.

Going forward, Visagie and Pienaar note, brand owners will need to ensure that consumers can clearly identify their paid-for social media advertising content. This specifically ties in with Clause 12 of Section 2 within the current Code, and it says that when it comes to electronic media, paid-for content should be easily distinguishable to news content.

“When paid-for promotional content is displayed amongst news or other editorial matter (often referred to as native advertising), that content should be designed, produced and presented in a manner that it will be readily and clearly recognised as an advertisement by the relevant public,” the pair stress.

As for influencers, such as sports stars or celebrities, even greater caution must be shown when dealing with paid-for content. In particular they should take special care when tweeting or posting messages regarding the paid-for advertising, and ensure that there is no ambiguity as to what is being mentioned.

“The value that consumers attach to a product or service recommendation is likely to be different, if the consumer is fully aware that the recommendation is a paid-for endorsement or review, as opposed to user-generated content, which is purely the narrator’s subjective opinion, on the specific topic, product or service,” say Visagie and Pienaar.

To make certain that there is no ambiguity, the Adams & Adams lawyers say specific identifiers can be used, such as, #AD, #Advertisement, #Sponsored. “The use of acceptable social media identifiers will avoid the risk of consumer confusion as to the nature of the viewed social media content,” they note.

On top of all of this, brand owners and influencers should have a written agreement in place, tackling the inter alia elements of their partnership. For those not brushed up on their Latin, this would outline the nature of the agreement, the influencer’s brief, the nature of remuneration, and whether what the influencer says or writes will be scripted.

Where in the past brand owners and social media influencers have benefited from the immediate audience that social media offers, these latest guidelines will now add a few logistical hoops to jump through.

Those thinking it’s unnecessary to jump through said hoops though, run the serious risk of earning the ARB’s ire, or potentially worse.

“These guidelines are aimed at transparency in advertising, and ensuring that consumers can clearly distinguish between advertising, and other online material. In addition, for reputational and ethical reasons, influencers are also encouraged to comply with the social media guidelines, to ensure that their followers immediately understand the nature and extent of their relationship with a particular product or business brand appearing on their social media newsfeed,” the Adams & Adams lawyers conclude.

[Image – CC 0 PxHere]