Digital Celebrities Rely On New Trade Group to Set Ad Disclosure Rules

An Influencer Marketing Council, comprised of brands, talent agencies and other influencer representatives, launched this week. Members are tasked with outlining a set of best practices for paid posts that are, in effect, ads.

Influencer marketing has become more widespread, with more than 200,000 such posts a month just on Facebook Inc.’s Instagram, according to Captiv8, one of the groups on the new council. About half of marketers plan to increase their influencer budgets this year, says eMarketer. The top players are meeting this week in Anaheim, California, for the Vidcon conference, which draws thousands of fans of digital celebrities.

“We don’t want to be in the business of tricking consumers,” said Blaise D’Sylva, vice president of media at beverage giant Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. and a founding member of the new council.

Disclosing paid posts is getting a little simpler, as applications including Instagram start to give influencers the option to use a standard label. But what about the grey areas, like when social media stars get expensive gifts and trips for free? Does that make their related posts ads? “Those are some of the things that we have to figure out and define,” D’Sylva said.

The council hasn’t yet discussed its goals with the FTC. Krishna Subramanian, co-founder of Captiv8, hopes the group can represent the influencer market in discussions with regulators, as well as with Facebook, Snap Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube. The committee aims to publish guidelines, along with examples, in a few months, so others in the industry can comment and help revise them, he said.

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