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Advertising lobby group the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) has released a code of conduct for influencer marketing, designed to make the sector more transparent for consumers.

The Code, a collection of best practice guidelines for influencer marketing and creator content, will help dispel the sector’s negative image.

What does the code involve?

  • The 40-point Code includes advice and guidelines governing relationships between creators and brands – and covers aspects such as due diligence when selecting creators, providing adequate protection from online abuse to creators, clear briefs and co-operative approahces to content creation, and timely payment.

  • The Code also commits brands to strict usage of the #ad hashtag, in line with wider regulations instituted by the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) and Advertising Standards Association (ASA).

  • Phil Smith, director-general of ISBA, said: “Influencer marketing is a powerful tool. In a world where advertising has suffered from a loss in trust, and where consumers are more likely to believe in the recommendations of a peer or ‘someone like me’, influencer campaigns offer the chance for individuals, agencies, and brands to work together, using new platforms to reach audiences in engaging ways.

  • “At its best, influencer marketing allows for authentic, personalised ads, delivered in a transparent way. However, if done incorrectly, it can cause reputational damage to influencers and brands alike. There is no excuse for failing to disclose when an ad is an ad, or for misleading consumers with photo editing. Equally, influencers often face real challenges when it comes to financial flows and mental health. Meanwhile, brands know influencer marketing can be effective, but struggle to demonstrate ROI.”

How will it be used?

  • While not a legal document, ISBA hope the Code will be attached to legal contracts and referred to in the workplace. 

  • Scott Guthrie, director general of the forthcoming Influencer Marketing Trade Body, said: “The number of influencer platforms and agencies has exploded over the past five years, from 190 to 1,360 worldwide. It’s inevitable that whilst most incumbents are good actors, there will be some who do not act in good faith. Marking yourself out as one of the good guys starts with accountability. Signing up to this code demonstrates that commitment to accountability. The Influencer Marketing Trade Body is dedicated to securing a sustainable, professional future for influencer marketing. We welcome ISBA’s code and are pleased to have been part of its review process.“

Who’s signed up?

  • Several major UK brands have already signed up to support the launch of the Code, including Lidl, Made.com, Specsavers, Tesco, PepsiCo, Paddy Power, LG and L’Oréal. 

  • Jill Dougan, ISBA executive committee chair and customer director, British Gas Energy said: “As marketing continues to evolve, it is vital we keep pace with new marketing channels and ensure they are being used honestly and authentically. Influencer marketing is a great way to reach and engage with customers but until now there has not been a common code that everyone involved adheres to. The ISBA Code of Conduct will be a valuable tool to anyone involved in influencer marketing.”

  • Conduct between influencers and brands is not the only element of the sector to move toward standardisation. Measurement of influencer content and campaigns is becoming increasingly strict, as Ogilvy and and GroupM revealed recently.