We’ve all seen it. Whether it’s on a YouTube video, Instagram post or a good old-fashioned blog, “hashtag Ad” has become part of our everyday vernacular.
Some of us ignore it, and it really rubs others up the wrong way. But the point still stands, paid for product placements are more common than ever now. Influencer marketing spend is set to continue to skyrocket with 8bn of growth predicted over the next few years putting 2020’s influencer marketing spend at an estimated $10bn mark. The market is exploding and navigating it requires some serious skill.
Recently, Snapchat’s PR firm, PR Consulting filed a lawsuit against @lukasabbat, Grown-ish actor and (probably more notably), Kourtney Kardashian’s pal, for $45,000 they’d already paid him, and an additional $45,000 in damages, for not fulfilling his contracted obligations on social media. This incident brings to light what so many influencers and even more PR firms already knew; navigating the world of paid for product placements is an absolute minefield. So what can you do to make sure you’re covered?
If you’re a PR firm:
Make sure your contracts are watertight and don’t pay the entire amount upfront. Might seem obvious, but it’s easily overlooked, even by people who are giants in the industry, as the above example shows.
Briefs are as important as contracts. Make sure you know what you want from your influencer and you state it clearly. You set the tone for your relationship with influencers; if you open up a dialogue with them and ensure that they can ask questions, you’ll ensure that you end up with the quality content that you envisioned, rather than sub-par work as a result of misunderstanding or poor communication.
If you’re an influencer:
Read the contract carefully and make sure you can and will fulfil all obligations. Other than not getting paid, you risk being sued, and, even more damaging, you risk your reputation as an influencer that brands will want to work with in future.
Once you’ve accepted the contract, navigating the actual posts is a whole other kettle of fish. The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) are cracking down on influencers and ignorance is no longer an excuse. You have to explicitly state that the content is an #Ad. Avoid using the terms ‘sponsored’, ‘paid promotion’ or ‘thanks to’ as these are ambiguous and could land you in hot water. Ad, #Ad, Advertisement are your safest bets. If you’re promoting a product for under 12s (such as toys), enhanced disclosure is required because children lack the skills to recognise adverts.
As well as ensuring you’re legally covered, fully disclosing your paid for content will pay off long term; audiences appreciate transparency and honesty. One of the reasons ad placements have attracted such a bad reputation is because audiences feel that their favourite influencers, who they have been following for years, whose opinions they trust and who they likely see as a friend, is trying to pull the wool over their eyes. They are no longer a friend, but a cog in the corporate machine who doesn’t care about their audience and just wants to squeeze the pennies out of them. Remain their friend and you’ll retain their loyalty.
With the rise of influencer marketing and the simultaneous tightening of ASA regulations, it’s never been more important to protect yourself, whether you’re a brand or an influencer. Whoever you are, there’s nothing that’s of higher priority than making sure your obligations are clearly set out. It’s easy to get caught up in the glamour and excitement of the influencer-sphere. But reputation is everything, and if you want social media to be your business, you have to be a business person first and foremost.