Does influencer marketing damage public’s perception of brands

Client: Sarah Burns at Prizeology

Coverage: Campaign, PR Week, Influencer Update, The Drum

Nearly three quarters of the public incorrectly believe there are no rules or regulations surrounding influencer marketing and almost half think it is damaging for society.’

That was the result of a survey of 2,000 people across the UK, commissioned in 2018 by Sarah Burns at Prizeology, which looked at influencer marketing on social media platforms including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest.

The survey, undertaken by Vitreous World, found 71 per cent of people thought there were no rules around the use of influencers, despite being regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), while 61 per cent believed influencers didn’t have to disclose that they had been paid to talk about a product.

Almost half of those surveyed were not aware of the hashtags and language influencers must use to indicate their commercial relationship with a brand.

The report, entitled ‘Under the Influence’, asked people what they thought more generally about influencer marketing and found that 44 per cent thought it was damaging to society.

This figure cut across generations, with 36 per cent of the 44 per cent who said influencer marketing was damaging society falling within the 18 to 24-year-old demographic.

Two thirds of those surveyed agreed with the statement that their perception of a brand improved when it was transparent about product placement.

An overwhelming majority of those surveyed, 88 per cent, believed they should be informed if people are being paid to promote products, but 61 per cent felt brands were not being transparent about their use of influencers.

As for future regulation, 71 per cent said the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) should do more to enforce disclosure and 56 per cent told the survey that both brands and influencers should be punished if they do not disclose their relationships.

In 2018, following the release of the survey results, Sarah Burns, managing director of Prizeology, commented that they should act as a wake-up call for brands that work with influencers.

She added: “The results are extremely interesting and overwhelmingly show a shocking lack of knowledge and confusion amongst all age groups – including teenagers – about the way that brands use social media influencers to advertise their products. The ASA has a tough job on its hands, but more must be done to enforce the rules and educate the public and influencers themselves as to what is acceptable and what is not.”

Then, in early 2019 the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that 16 influencers, some of them among the biggest names in influencer marketing, had agreed to be completely transparent and tell their followers upfront when they have been paid to promote the products they feature in their posts.

Although the CMA didn’t comment on whether the Celebrity 16, which includes Ellie Goulding, Alexa Chung and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, as well as Zoella, Millie Mackintosh and Binky Felstead, had actually breached consumer law, for those high-profile faces who signed up to this agreement it was certainly a very public commitment to be more honest with consumers, and the announcement sent a strong signal that the authorities are tightening up in this area and that influencer marketing compliance isn’t optional.