The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) further updated the Influencer Guidelines on July 21, 2021, by an addendum outlining the necessary evidence and procedures for disputes raised on the Material Connection between the advertiser and Influencer. Our Article on the original Guidelines can be viewed  here, while the Guidelines can be viewed here.

The Guidelines adopt a "Material Connection Test" between the advertiser and the influencer. A Material Connection is any connection between an advertiser and influencer that may affect the weight or credibility of the representation made by the influencer. Material connection could include but is not limited to benefits and incentives, such as monetary or other compensation, free products with or without any conditions attached including those received unsolicited, discounts, gifts, contest and sweepstakes entries, trips or hotel stays, media barters, coverage, awards or any family or employment relationship, etc.

In case an advertiser or an influencer disputes that the subject matter is not an advertisement due to lack of material connection, they shall have to support their claim by providing evidence to the ASCI. The evidence may be a declaration from the advertiser, signed by a senior member of the advertiser's organization such as the Marketing head, Legal/ Compliance head, Digital marketing head or similar, stating that there is no material connection between them and the influencer as on the date of the post. In case the advertiser cannot be traced even after reasonable efforts, or if the piece of communication features brands from multiple advertisers, then, a proof shall have to be presented by the influencer, showing that the featured product/brand was purchased. Such evidence would be considered adequate to refute material connection.

"Several influencers have already begun complying with the guidelines. Even talent management agencies and advertisers have been issuing very clear instructions to influencers, ensuring the guidelines are met," shared Manisha Kapoor, Secretary General of ASCI.  She also says that barring one or two instances, any influencers found to be violating guidelines, whether advertently or inadvertently, have made changes to their content in less than an hour after ASCI brought it to their notice. While the addendum gives some breathing room to the influencers and/or advertisers, ASCI's agenda of consumer protection stands firm.

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