New Canadian influencer disclosure guidelines have been released by Ad Standards outlining how Canadian bloggers, social influencers, brands and agencies need to disclose their relationships. Here's our overview on what you need to know!
Editor's Note: This information is current as of May 2, 2018. It will be updated as needed.
It's been a long time coming but, Canadian bloggers and social influencers finally have clearcut guidelines on how to disclose working relationships with brands, agencies, restaurants and clients to their audience and followers.
Recently, Ad Standards, the self-regulating body for the advertising industry in Canada, released new Canadian influencer disclosure guidelines to ensure bloggers and influencers (including magazine and news sites and accounts) can all stay compliant with Canada's Competition Bureau. If you're not sure what Canada's Competition Bureau is, it's the government arm responsible for the Competition Act, whose objective is to prevent fraud, and eliminate deceptive marketing practices in Canada.
Ad Standards approached FBC last year and invited us to join their Influencer Marketing Committee responsible for creating the guidelines. We were happy to accept and used the opportunity to share the concerns we regularly hear from FBC members regarding disclosure requirements.
We're going to run you through some of the highlights of the new disclosure guidelines here but, we strongly recommend that anyone in Canada who does one of the following takes the time to read the document:
- creates YouTube content
- writes for any on-line publication or platform
- runs social marketing campaigns with influencers (both brands and agencies.
It's easy to read and quite straight forward. And it's your responsibility to make sure you are compliant or you or your brand or social influencer partners could face regulatory actions that include significant fines.
So... let's dive in!
Defining Influencer Language
One of the first things the Disclosure Guidelines does is define terms like influencer, brand, material connections, payment, advertising, and brand ambassadorship or exclusivity in clear terms. This helps make sure everyone is on the same page.
The Do's and Don'ts of Canadian Disclosure
This is the bulk of the document and the best part is... there's lots of visual examples showing you the right way and the wrong way to disclose! Here's some key takeaways
Disclosure Should Be Upfront
Disclosure should be upfront. Do NOT
- try to hide it in a series of hashtags or push it down below the main message of the content
- try to hide it by using a tiny or illegible font
- tuck it away in a blanket disclosure notice hidden on your website
- rely solely on social media platform settings for your disclosure
- rely on tagging a brand in a social media post
- use ambiguous hashtags like #collab #partner #promo #spon - these are not acceptable
- use campaign hashtags as your disclosure like #brandxyzfunevent
- use ambiguous phrases to imply a material connection - particularly for trips and events
Here's a list of things you SHOULD DO
- make sure your disclosure is clear and conspicuous (where a reader or follower can immediately see it, or hear it in the case of video, without searching or having to click on a "read more" button)
- disclose in conjunction with social media tools - use the Facebook partnership tool in conjunction with a #sponsored or #ad hashtag
- endorse in the language of the content. If you write in English, disclose in English. If you write in French, disclose in French.
- make sure your disclosure is in close proximity to the endorsement - at the top of a post, before an instagram caption, prior to an affiliate link
- ensure your disclosure identifies the brand, the product and what you received (was it free product? coupons? an exclusive invite? money?)
- use widely accepted hashtags like #ad, #sponsored, #xyzbrand_Ambassador (see the guide for a complete list)
Not sure if you should disclose or not? When in doubt, spell it out for your audience and disclose.
Addressing Free Product, Media Events and Trips
One of the trickiest disclosure questions that comes up a lot is what to do with free product (especially product that's sent to you without your consent), media events and trips.
This has been made much clearer although we think there is still work to be done here.
The short answer is if you received something from somebody - whether it's an invite, a product or a trip - and you choose to share it on social media or your blog you need to let your audience know what you received and who you received it from.
You don't need to use the #sponsored or #ad hashtag in these instances but you do need to make it very clear what the transaction was. Simply saying "Thank You Brand XZY" is not enough. Acceptable disclosures would be:
- Thank you Brand XYZ for the invite to PRODUCTFAB Launch Event
- Thank you Brand XYZ for the gift of this fabulous frying pan
- Thank you Brand XYZ for the free product
- Thank you Brand XYZ for the free trip or Thank you Brand XYZ for paying for my trip.
You must make sure your followers are clear on any material connection in your post and what the connection is.
A Handy "Do I Need To Disclose?" Checklist
The disclosure guidelines contain a handy "Do I Need to Disclose" Checklist to help you determine whether you need to disclose in specific situation
Disclosure Guidelines for Specific Digital Channels
The guidelines also include useful channel specific information for YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and blog posts to help you make sure your disclosure is platform appropriate.
Wrapping It All Up!
It's important to remember that the new Canadian Disclosure Guidelines is a living document that will be updated regularly to reflect changes in digital media, new platforms and new legislation that may arise so it's important to keep up to date and check it regularly (we'll do our best to keep you updated here!).
Ad Standards has done a good job of ensuring the guidelines dovetail nicely with FTC regulation in the US and other international influencer guidelines
We're pleased with this first edition of the guidelines that's now available. Most of our concerns have been addressed. The document is very easy to read and very well illustrated with visual examples of DOs and DON'Ts that make is simple to implement and understand.
As bloggers and influencers it's our responsibility to ensure we are disclosing properly. Brands and agencies, it is also your responsibility to ensure that the influencers you work with are disclosing properly. It's important for all of us to realize this is meant to help our readers, followers, customers and clients understand our relationships with the people we work with and the products and experiences we talk about. It helps us raise the level of professionalism as a group and... it's required by law!
If you have questions or concerns you'd like to see us bring to the Ad Standards Influencer Marketing Committee in the future be sure to let us know!