The dust has started to settle after an initial uproar about the new CMA guidelines for influencer marketing. Many felt the guidelines would be the end of creativity, make life harder for influencers, and confuse consumers. After a couple of weeks of seeing influencers post according to the guidelines, as a consumer, I have to admit I prefer the transparency. Although some aspects of the guidelines seem excessive, such as stating that an item which was paid for must be considered an Ad if they have worked with the brand before, it does give a sense of authenticity to the influencers content. For many consumers, the clarity takes away some of the anxiety and comparison with what seems an unbelievable lifestyle. Whilst there are assumptions that designer outfits for big events may be loaned, to have that clearly stated is a breath of fresh air.
Seeing people whose life isn’t much different to yours wearing expensive brands and products that they are actively trying to encourage you to buy, it’s easy to see how it could result in people getting into debt to try and achieve a similar lifestyle or image. Social media can be damaging for peoples mental health, and if your job is promoting or selling on social media then there should be a level of responsibility. For a young and impressionable audience, declaring with transparency could mean all the difference. For consumers to be aware that items have been given as a PR product or loaned doesn’t take away the trust in their opinion, but rather has the opposite effect, and it does take some of the pressure off consumers.
Many of the comments from influencers are that journalists don’t face the same scrutiny or pressure to declare paid trips or gifted items, but there’s a reason influencer marketing is on the rise whilst magazine sales are decreasing. Influencer marketing works because people can relate; they get a sneak peak into certain aspects of regular peoples lives.
Considering the issue of clarity, just throwing ad in front of everything does make it confusing. Is it a paid advertisement? Is it a PR item? Is the item loaned? Is it a press trip? Specifying these details doesn’t have to be onerous, and some influencers have been stating this simply in just a word or two. Insincere influencers are becoming easier to spot, and we all know the celebrities who advertise just about anything and don’t declare it. However, I don’t think its a case of a few spoiling it for the many, as I do think the extra clarity is what many consumers want.
That being said, there’s been a lot of “policing” going on from people who have vaguely read and understood the guidelines and are trolling creators who are getting used to the new guidelines themselves. There has to be an adjustment period where influencers find their on way of declaring according to the guidelines without damaging their individual creativity. The majority don’t begrudge influencers receiving PR products. I mean, in all honesty, who would turn down products from brands that they love? Who wouldn’t want their favourite designer loaning them a beautiful dress for an event? And if you say you wouldn’t want to go on an all expenses paid press trip to the Maldives then you are absolutely fibbing though your teeth. But usually, nothing is ever really free, and a lot of work goes into creating content for these brands.
Whilst these new levels of transparency are a positive for both influencers and consumers, lets not forget that the reason we follow influencers and spend hours scrolling through Instagram is to enjoy the content. Most of us don’t go on Instagram to check whether something has been declared as an ad or not, we go on to look at beautiful photography, to find inspiration, and to enjoy the content that is available to us for free.
(Images taken at a Blogosphere event for which I paid to attend. I received samples and PR products at the event)