Retail Practices

Look out for ads disguised as info!

By : Gabrielle Tremblay-Baillargeon

Influencer marketing is now everywhere; consumers need to learn how to detect it and understand the issues surrounding this type of advertising.

More than just another phenomenon, influencer marketing is becoming common ground, and it seems to be here to stay. And yet, it comes with several grey areas and legal confusion. How can consumers protect themselves?

As we all know, social media now plays a big part in our daily lives, with a significant impact on how we see the products and services advertised on our feeds. Now more than ever before, we can turn to others to get recommendations before buying a given product, and influencers are a great fit for this.

Last month, the Influencer marketing: advertising in the age of social media research study carried out by Option consommateurs laid the foundations for a reflection on the effect of influencer marketing on Quebec consumers, related concerns, and the legislative and social shortcomings involved. Review.

What’s an influencer?

Influencer is a broad term referring to anyone with a large enough number of subscribers that they can potentially influence. From sports to fashion to cooking, each content creator finds their niche and uses it in their own way. These days, companies fond of using this pool of loyal fans go into partnership with them to promote a product or service. Their partnerships come in various forms—sponsored post, video integration, event coverage by way of Instagram stories, and much more.

Current issues

“Influencer marketing is based on the notion of authenticity,” explains Clarisse N’Kaa, author of the study. According to the lawyer, the techniques used in influencer marketing are based on this bond of trust between the individual and their audience. And unfortunately, this is a major concern for consumers, who may have difficulty telling “authentic” content and advertising content apart.

Still too many grey areas

In Canada, advertising content must legally be identified as such. The problem, according to N’Kaa, is that this identification varies based on platform and brand and influencer preferences. Even if the ways to identify an influencer marketing ad are governed by Quebec’s Ad Standards, they don’t all use the same language. From a #ad to a textual mention added to an image, the methods used are many. “There’s lots of work to be done to unify the symbols and the way to distribute ads,” says N’Kaa, adding that there are no laws governing the grey areas.

Transparency does not necessarily mean understanding, however. The report specifies that the audience seems to have a hard time differentiating between paid content and organic content; for those under 13 years old, it is nearly impossible.

“People think they are getting around traditional advertising. But truth is, they have never been as influenced by ads as they are now,” exclaims N’Kaa.

A few tricks to stay vigilant

  • Develop reflexes with respect to services that are within your reach.
    The websites and telephone ads of Ad Standards, Competition Bureau, and Option consommateurs offer practical information. You can also report an ad deemed to be misleading to Ad Standards.
  • Pay attention to the marketing techniques used.
    Check the hashtags (#pub, #ad, and #sponsored) and brand mentions in the legend of the posts you are viewing. If you are a parent, watch the content consumed by your kids.
  • Think critically.
    Keep in mind that with ad content, typically, the brand has a say on the content shared by the influencer.

Influencers . . . on the Stock Market!

Millennials are (finally!) interested in stocks and the world of finance thanks to apps, software . . . and stock influencers specializing in the field! On TikTok, these influencers give tips on placing your money effectively, or offer an introduction to cryptocurrency. They are known as finfluencers, a combination or finance and influencers. Beware, however, as cases of fraud have been detected in the United States and Europe, and some finfluencers get a commission for every client referred to the virtual investment platforms.

Toward responsible influencing

Since January 2021, the Club Med brand has been requiring that all influencers from France who partner with them get the Certificat de l’Influence Responsable, a certification that encourages creators to commit to ethical and responsible influencer marketing. Club Med is the first French company to set a framework of responsibility in the hopes of inspiring other major European brands to do the same.