Influencer marketing using social network platforms is rising as more companies use influencers to promote products and services. The influencers use their social media accounts to rate, mention brands and provide videos of products and services by using hashtags or hyperlinks in their social media content. Whether the social media content is an objective statement and personal to the influencer or a sponsored/ paid-for advertisement is unclear.
As such, for advertising on social network platforms, a consumer must be allowed the opportunity to differentiate if such social media content is an independent opinion or a sponsored/paid-for advertisement throughout the consumer buying decision process.
Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Content Code (Content Code)
The Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) empowered the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission and its industry body Communications and Multimedia Content Forum of Malaysia, to formulate a voluntary industry code with the industry and community (Content Code). The said Content Code is a self-regulation model providing guidelines and procedures for best practices of content disseminated to consumers. Compliance with the Content Code offers a defence for advertisers against any prosecution, action or proceeding under the CMA regarding matters dealt with, in the Content Code.
A public consultation exercise on the Content Code Revamp 2021 (CCR 2021) concluded recently to update the Content Code 2020. The CCR 2021 addresses the policy gap to cover significant communications and multimedia industry changes from emerging social network platforms.
The scope of the CCR 2021 includes, amongst others, influencer marketing. It seeks to expand consumer protection safeguards surrounding social network advertising and stop misleading social network advertisements. The intent is that social network advertising using third parties (such as influencers) shall not be a tool to mislead the consumers. For the influencer to rely on the defence provided by the CCR 2021, upon the registration of the CCR 2021 by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, the influencer should abide by the CCR 2021.
Not covered in this article are social network advertisements related to medicines and medical services, liquor, gambling, political messages, those targeting children and others provided for in the Content Code and other relevant laws and industry codes.
Influencer marketing disclosures post-CCR 2021
Below is an overview on influencer marketing disclosures implemented in 3 jurisdictions: the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Singapore, about social network advertising on social network platforms and how the CCR 2021 closes the gap in social network advertising in Malaysia.
|Authority||Federal Trade Commission (FTC)||Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)|
Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP)
|Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS)||Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC)|
Communications and Multimedia Content Forum (CMCF)
|Relevant Legislation/Industry Code/Guidelines||Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.|
Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers Guide (Disclosure Guide).
.com Disclosures: How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising issued by FTC.
|UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing.|
Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
"An Influencer's Guide to making clear that ads are ads" jointly issued by CAP and the CMA (Influencers' Guide).
"Social media endorsements: being transparent with your followers" issued by the CMA (Socmed Endorsements).
|Guidelines for Interactive Marketing Communication & Social Media.|
Guidance Notes for Interactive Marketing Communication & Social Media.
|Content Code Revamp 2021|
|Practical Advice on Disclosures||Disclose the relationship with the brand (even if it is a financial, employment, personal or family ties). If there is no brand relation and the influencer purchased the product or services and liked it, no disclosure is required.|
Forms of content disclosure:
included in the pictures and videos for audio and video formats.
superimpose the disclosure on Instagram Stories or Snapchat.
repeated disclosure to allow viewers opting in later to be aware of the relationship between the brand and the influencer during live streams.
Simple and clear language, examples:
#ad or Ad
Thanks [Company Name] for the gift [product name]
Thanks [Company Name] for the free product
#[Company Name] Ambassador
#[Company Name] Partner
Examples of unacceptable forms of disclosure are:
Thanks [Company Name]
|Disclose the relationship between a brand or company. If the influencer is paid, given or loaned things for free, state it. Do note, if the influencer is given products, gifts, services, trips, hotel stays etc., for free instead of money, it also qualifies as "a payment" (or other reciprocal arrangements)". |
CAP and CMA recommend disclosure 'at the beginning' of the title, thumbnail or on an image. Do not bury the tag, hyperlinks or label where it can only be seen by clicking 'see more', clicking to view the full post or at the influencer's front, home or profile page.
In the Influencer's Guide and Socmed Endorsements, helpful descriptions were provided:
Ad/Advertising/ Advertisement Feature
4. The Socmed Endorsements provided unacceptable forms of disclosure such as:
tagging a brand, business or a gift from a brand or business in either the text, picture and/or video of a post without additional disclosure.
using discount codes in a post without additional disclosure.
using language without additional disclosure in a post (for example, 'thank you'; 'made possible by'; 'in collaboration with'; or 'thanks to…').
unclear use of hashtags, for example,
|Disclosures of sponsored content shall be simple, clear, prominent and visible such as:|
placed as early and noticeable.
show that the content is paid content.
emphasis on the disclosure in different font colours and sizes to differentiate from other editorial content.
disclosure is placed on the same page as the marketing content.
Forms of content disclosure:
included in the picture or caption for still and animated images.
visible form within the video for video formats.
audible form within the recording for audio formats.
Written content disclosure examples:
“This post was sponsored by...”
“This post was brought to you by...”
“This post was created in partnership with...”
“The featured products were provided by...”
The following written content disclosures are acceptable for social network platforms with content length constraints:
5. Marketers must not boost user engagement of a website, social media channel, or content through fraudulent means such as purchasing bulk "like", creating fake accounts, and using programmes that generate page views.
|1. Disclose the relationship between the brand and company with the influencer. Any influencer arrangement shall be disclosed as being done in exchange for payment or other reciprocal arrangements in exchange for cash.|
2. Disclosures of endorsement content:
placed upfront and seen first with the content.
the disclosure must be in the same language as the content.
the disclosure must differentiate from the content.
Forms of content disclosure:
included in the video for video formats.
repeated periodically in a live stream for viewers who see part of the stream.
Examples of vague or confusing terms to be avoided:
The overview above provides a practical and commercial approach to future-proof disclosures of sponsored or paid-for social media advertisements. Upon registering the CCR 2021 by MCMC, consumers’ rights shall be protected further against unethical social media advertisements on social network platforms.