Influencer Marketing and Disclosure Tags

Gianna Callioni
. 08 Sep 2021 . 5 min read

There’s no denying it: influencer marketing has always been steeped in controversy. It goes without saying that influencers and brands alike have taken advantage of the benefits that come with word-of-mouth marketing and, in some instances, have taken it too far.

With the recent revisions to AANA’s Code of Ethics*, we’ve seen several high profile posts pulled up for potential breaches. Whether you’re a Marketing Manager or a small business owner, it’s important to keep reading. While it’s good that posts are being more closely monitored, a few questions have popped up that we’d like you to consider before running your own campaigns.

1. Who is responsible for making sure disclosure tags are correct?

One such recent post was by ex-Bachelor star, Anna Heinreich, where she modelled a gorgeous dress by Runway the Label. Originally the post had no hint of a disclosure tag, merely tagging the brand in the caption. However, since the official investigation by Ad Standards, she’s updated the post to include a ‘paid partnership’ tag.

anna heinrich runway the label instagram post

Anna is managed by Chic Talent Management and their GM, David Dalton, commented that they were unaware of the complaint as Runway the Label didn’t communicate this with them. As soon as they found out, they added a “Paid partnership with @…” tag to the post.

This response suggests that the onus for disclosing content correctly falls on the brand, not the talent or the talent managers. There are, however, very clear standards and expectations in the industry that brands, influencers, and talent managers, should all be well aware of. If there was indeed a relationship, then they should have disclosed it from the get-go.

The responsibility falls on everyone involved. In saying that, the potential fine for a business is 20x higher than that for the influencer, so we recommend you keep a close eye on it.

2. Can we always distinguish between paid and unpaid posts?

Another post that was recently in the spotlight was by Rozalia Russian, featuring a Tom Ford perfume bottle. While Anna ended up adding a disclosure tag to her post with Runway the Label, Rozalia’s spokeswoman said that the post in question wasn’t paid and didn’t need a disclosure tag. Estee Lauder, who manages Tom Ford, also made a statement saying they don’t do influencer collaborations and the post wasn’t sponsored.

rozalia russion tom ford instagram post

The issue here lies in whether payment is the only reason a post should have a disclosure. Many argue that even a post with a gifted item should be made transparent by the influencer, as an item being gifted can still impact how someone feels about a product and how this is represented to their following.

Even without direct payment or gifting, sometimes an influencer’s content just looks like it could be an ad even though it isn’t. We need to be careful about judging this type of content without knowing the full story.

3. How can we maintain authenticity?

There is a valid reason why these revisions were made to the Code of Ethics. Influencers are, as the name suggests, influential, and posting something without being clear about sponsorships and/or gifted items can be misleading and appear inauthentic.

If you are considering working with an influencer for your brand, make sure you work with influencers who work with you. That is, their content and personality fits well with your brand and they understand the rules around sponsorship and gifting opportunities. The influencer should also have a good ratio between sponsored content and other posts in their feed. We also recommend finding out how many other brands they are currently working with. Consumers understand sponsorships and gifting is part and parcel of social media and online personalities, but they can easily become fatigued by it if it is executed poorly.

*The Australian Association of National Advertisers’ Code of Ethics outlines what influencer collaborations consist of and how they should be disclosed to the public.

Ultimately, influencer marketing should always be about authenticity, otherwise it loses its value. If you’re considering influencer marketing for your brand, we strongly encourage you to do your due diligence and select your influencers carefully. And if it's all too overwhelming, that's why we're here! Downloading our comprehensive guide to influencer marketing is a great place to start, and if you have any questions or need help navigating it all, get in touch and we'll be happy to help.

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