With influencer marketing creating confusion for the public and social sharers—along with regulatory headaches—the Influencer Marketing Council aims to create consistent rules of the road for the industry.
The Fyre Festival—with its floppy cheese sandwiches, unfinished sets, and utter lack of organization—is a perfect example of what can go wrong with influencer marketing. The festival had been heavily promoted by big-name social media influencers, and they got burned as a result.
The incident, while not directly the fault of the social sharers, ultimately was laid at their feet by some observers because of what was seen as the misleading nature of the promotions. The well-reported fiasco highlights the challenges that influencer marketing faces in the marketplace and with the Federal Trade Commission. Disclosure is confusing and anything but consistent—and a new industry council wants to fix that.
The Influencer Marketing Council (IMC), made up of a variety of major brands, marketing firms, and talent agencies, hopes to create a firm set of rules of the road for influencer marketing so nobody’s confused about what they’re seeing.
In a news release, the group’s acting chair, Krishna Subramanian—also the cofounder of Captiv8—noted the inconsistent nature of such ads.
“There’s so much ambiguity in how to implement influencer marketing from a creator and brand standpoint that is in the best interest of consumers.” Subramanian explained. “The IMC will go the next step by creating guidelines and best practices, with specific examples of consumer disclosure, for the entire influencer marketing community to put to use.”
That’s something that advertisers like Dr Pepper Snapple Group, a member of the council, are also looking for. In comments to Bloomberg, the beverage giant’s vice president of media, Blaise D’Sylva, emphasized that “we don’t want to be in the business of tricking consumers.”
IMC is relying on a mixture of stakeholders with the goal of creating unbiased industry standards, along with strategies that educate the market as a whole.
According to Bloomberg, the group hopes to represent the industry both with regulators and the social networks that influencers use. Some of those social networks, like Instagram, are creating tools specifically designed to ensure a standardized form of disclosure.
One such influencer, online beatboxer Andrew Fitzpatrick, notes that his efforts to work with brands have been confusing. He told Bloomberg that he once posted a social item with the hashtag #ad, only to have the firm he was working with take down the post and replace it with #sponsored.
“The rules around it are just completely cloudy,” Fitzpatrick told the news outlet. “If I can pick the shortest, easiest hashtag, that’s the one I’m gonna want.”