Online partnerships: nearly one in five influencer content would not meet transparency criteria

While the controversies fuse, the medium of online influence, where publications paid by brands are legion, is closely scrutinized. And for the time being, these promotions broadcast on social networks do not all fit the nails. Nearly one in five partnerships is not entirely transparent, reveals a study by the Professional Advertising Regulatory Authority (ARPP) released on Thursday.

The Responsible Influence Observatory, founded by the ARPP, estimates that 83% of videos highlight a brand and/or product and clearly indicate that it is an advertisement, as required the law. In detail, 47% of the promotions studied were perfectly identifiable, in accordance with the rules issued by the authority.

To this figure is added 36% of content where partnerships were indicated, but should be more explicit or instantaneous, judges the association, which brings together more than 800 companies, and is responsible for monitoring good practices in the field.

Less scrupulous “small influencers”

In the end, it is “one content out of five” which “does not meet the ARPP’s transparency criteria”, sums up the deputy director of the ARPP Mohamed Mansouri. He welcomes, however, a “significant improvement” in the publications studied compared to 2020, when 73% of the content evaluated was deemed to be compliant.

The study in question had the role of evaluating the level of transparency of partnerships among influencers of several levels, whether they have a few thousand subscribers or more than a million. Nearly 30,000 videos posted by more than 5,500 YouTube, Instagram and TikTok influencers were taken into account in 2021.

At this stage, most of the shortcomings have been observed among “small influencers”, i.e. those with less than 10,000 subscribers, estimates Mohamed Mansouri. “The bigger we are, the better we are accompanied,” he comments.

Reality TV stars at the heart of the controversy

The transparency of influencer partnerships, as well as their practices, has been a hot topic in the media and on social media since this summer. At the heart of the controversies, in particular, the scams and the lack of reliability of some of the influencers from reality TV, pinned on numerous occasions in the press and on television.

These Internet stars, sometimes followed by several million people, are still far from the concerns of the ARPP, which says it wants to distinguish “content creators”, who are more respectful of advertising rules, from simple “influencers” accumulating partnerships with brands dropshippinghighlighting unreliable financial investments, or promoting cosmetic surgery.

“Talking about ethics to crooks is useless”, thunders its deputy director Mohammed Mansouri, who underlines that “these practices are criminal”. Sanctions against unscrupulous influencers are still rare. The only striking example to date: the ex-star of the small screen Nabilla, who, in 2021, had received a fine of 20,000 euros for “misleading commercial practices”. She had then promoted an investment in cryptocurrencies, swearing, wrongly, that financial gains would be guaranteed.

To avoid these pitfalls, the ARPP has created a “certificate of responsible influence”. Issued after a two-hour training and an exam, the certificate attests that an influencer knows how to promote a product while respecting the fundamental rules of advertising. The certificate will very soon include sections on gambling and financial products, due to the many dubious promotions that are spreading on social networks in these areas.

In the event of proven non-compliance, the ARPP can send a warning, or even suspend the certificate of an unscrupulous influencer. After a year of existence, 150 influencers have validated the certificate. Among them, content creators with a strong presence on YouTube or even TikTok, lovers of videos in more elaborate formats. Profiles far removed from the stars who have passed through reality TV sets, which attract the most attention – and criticism – from the media and Internet users.

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