Who: The French advertising authority (ARPP)
When: May 2019
Law stated as at: 14 October 2019
The ARPP Observatory studied more than 500 campaigns shown on several social networks during the second half of 2018, in order to encourage and promote good practices in relation to influence marketing. The ARPP Observatory’s findings were classified into the following three categories: bad practices; practices that can be improved; and good practices.
What are the bad practices?
The ARPP Observatory found that 12% of the campaigns analysed did not indicate at all the existence of the commercial partnership between the influencer and the brand. French law requires that the advertising nature of a content must be clearly identified.
What are the practices that can be improved?
A third of the campaigns analysed by the ARPP Observatory referenced a partnership between the influencer and the brand. However, this reference was not always sufficiently explicit and/or instantly identifiable.
- Examples of partnerships that are not identified in a sufficiently explicit way:
- #AD: The tag “#ad” is a common practice on social networks, but not sufficiently clear to identify a partnership with a brand. Indeed, the ARPP considers that French consumers are not sufficiently familiar with this term, so it should not be used to identify a commercial partnership.
- *AD: In addition to the points above, this prevents the post being searchable against other posts labelled “#ad”.
- Acknowledgements and thanks: The act of thanking a brand does not clearly indicate the existence of a partnership with a brand. As the ARPP Observatory points out, a brand may have offered a gift to an influencer without any commitment to talk about the product or service at stake. Therefore, giving an acknowledgment or thanking a brand is insufficient to acknowledge that there is a commercial relationship involved.
- The expressions such as “I was offered to test…”, “I was contacted for…”, etc.: Such expressions are too vague to clearly indicate whether there are reciprocal commitments between the influencer and a brand.
The ARPP recommends using instead hashtags such as #pub, #sponsorisé or #collaboration.
- Examples of partnerships that are not instantly identified:
The advertising nature of an influencer’s content must be instantly visible to the consumer, without having to carry out any additional research. It is therefore important to avoid:
- the identification of the partnership drowned in several hashtags or included at the end of a long post caption; and
- the identification of a partnership after several Instagram “Stories”.
The ARPP recommends using social networks’ functionalities that allow partnerships to be easily identified. For instance, on Instagram the mention “Paid partnership with XX” will be indicated under the influencer’s pseudonym when posting a content. On YouTube, this information can be automatically integrated into the video.
What are the other areas of non-compliance ?
While the ARPP Observatory’s primary focus was the issue of the identification of the partnerships between the influencers and the brands, the ARPP also flagged that influencers’ contents may be subject to other rules.
In particular, when the brand exercises:
- a preponderant control over the product or service-oriented discourse; and
- validation (or approval) of the content before it goes online,
this content is also subject to all the ethical rules applicable to advertising professionals (i.e. ARPP Recommendations).
Finally, the ARPP gave a more general reminder that influencers, insofar as their voices have a strong impact on the public and their community, must respect the principles of any responsible communication: loyalty towards their public, truthfulness in their content, transparency in their speaking out, and the protection of young audiences.
Why this matters:
These practical guidelines detail the best practices to be followed by brands and influencers in order for their ad to comply with French law transparency requirements.