July 5, 2022

The Influencer Marketing Trade Body has responded to the Government's Online Advertising Programme (OAP)


The Influencer Marketing Trade Body ("IMTB") has responded to the Government's Online Advertising Programme ("OAP") set up to review the regulatory framework of paid-for online advertising. We provide the key points to our written responses below.

Summary overview of consultation relating to influencer marketing 

The OAP looks at four core areas from an influencer marketing point of view:

  1. Explores how to better deal with influencers who fail to reveal sponsorship arrangements with companies in their posts.
  1. Looks at the current regulations and regulators including whether they are properly empowered. 
  1. Examines how the regulators are and might be funded.
  2. Considers the whole supply chain (i.e. advertisers, agencies, influencer marketing platforms, influencers and social media platforms) and whether those within it should do more.

Working with IMTB members, and having met with the advertising policy team of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, we submitted a response to the OAP consultation. 

Key points: IMTB's response to OAP consultation

Quantity of non-identified influencer adverts is overstated

The level of consumer harm brought from non-identified influencer adverts has been overstated within the call for response to the consultation.

Brand safety and industry harms

There are issues around brand safety within the influencer marketing industry. These instances will occur when influencers behave unexpectedly. Risks can be mitigated through effective identification, selection and recruitment processes by advertisers and agencies on their behalf.

Advertisers and their agencies combat influencer fraud by utilising AdTech features to detect potential influencer fraud within the selection process of working with influencers. 

Insufficient credit given to industry initiatives

Insufficient credit has been shown towards industry initiatives designed to improve transparency and accountability in online advertising. 

The Influencer Marketing Trade Body was founded with the aim to demonstrate best practice within the industry. Our members are bound by a code of conduct. The code articulates specific requirements for members. These are the behaviours that members must demonstrate when they are providing business services.

Current industry-led self regulatory regime is generally effective

The current industry-led self regulatory regime for online advertising, administered by the Advertising Standards Authority ("ASA"), is generally effective at addressing the range of harms.

Sanctions at the ASA’s disposal, and the process for triggering those sanctions, may need to be revisited and hardened in relation to repeat offenders. However, the IMTB believes more time should be afforded to the ASA in which to monitor the effect its new sanctions are having on the industry.

The IMTB welcomes the new initiative from the ASA to capture and analyse all Instagram Stories produced by ‘high-risk’ influencers who are unwilling or unable to clearly and consistently label when their content is an ad.

If harms continue the IMTB would concede there may be a requirement to introduce harder-edged enforcement for the small number of repeat offenders. Regulatory oversight should be future proof - and sufficiently robust to deal appropriately with serious offences.

If further harder-edged enforcement was judged to be required – The IMTB would support the exploration of a regulator being granted greater powers to enforce consumer protection law. This includes the ability to levy turnover-based fines for frustrating enforcement procedures of breaking the law.

Concentration of power within social media platforms

The IMTB raised concerns with the concentration of power enjoyed by social media platforms operating owned and operated - or ‘walled garden’ - marketplace models.

Social media platforms increasingly act as:

  • Distributor of influencer content.
  • Competitor to advertiser agency and to influencer marketing platform offering.
  • Regulator enforcing arrangements between advertiser and user.

Need for global, joined-up approach to regulation

The IMTB would welcome exploratory analysis by the Competition and Markets Authority via the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) into how to bring social media platforms’ terms of service in line with CPRs around the world.

About the Influencer Marketing Trade Body

The Influencer Marketing Trade Body is the professional membership organisation for influencer marketing agencies and influencer marketing platforms. The IMTB is dedicated to building a robust, sustainable future for the influencer marketing industry through increased accountability, governance and a unified voice.

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