Rules regarding the use of influencers
If influencers receive any form of compensation for recommendations, it is considered advertising. It must be clear to consumers when influencers are advertising, otherwise consumers are misled. Misleading practices are prohibited under consumer rules. Both influencers and the businesses that hire them must comply with those rules.
An influencer is a natural or virtual person that has many followers on social media. On their social media channels, the influencer shares content, such as videos, photos, and posts, or they are active in other ways, such as through likes, tweets, or tags. In their online content, influencers recommend products or businesses. They share, for example, a promotional code or a link with their followers, or they like, tag, or tweet about a particular business.
If an influencer recommends something, their recommendation will create a positive image among their followers. They will be more likely to buy it. As a result, the influencer wields influence over a certain target audience and its purchasing behavior. We call this form of advertising ‘influencer marketing’.
Influencers mix their commercial advertisements with non-commercial posts. As a result, consumers sometimes have a hard time recognizing advertisements. If an influencer receives any form of compensation for a recommendation, it is considered advertising. Compensation does not necessarily mean just monetary compensation. Compensations may also include other benefits the influencer receives from businesses, such as discounts, partnerships, affiliated links, free products, trips, or invitations to events. It does not matter if there is an actual agreement between the influencer and the business. Even without an agreement, certain practices may constitute advertising.
Advertising must be recognizable as such. Consumers must therefore know if something is a commercial message. They cannot be misled or unduly influenced into purchasing something. This is the influencer’s own responsibility, but also the responsibility of the business that hires an influencer. Misleading practices are unfair commercial practices. Unfair commercial practices are prohibited under consumer protection rules. These rules are enforced by ACM.
In addition to consumer protection rules, rules for video uploaders also apply to influencers. These latter rules are enforced by the Dutch Media Authority (CvdM).
What is required and what is not allowed?
Example: unclear that something is advertised in a video
A business hires an influencer for recommending a product. The influencer shows the product several times in a video. While doing so, she keeps saying that it is an amazing product. However, the video does not make it clear that this is advertising or sponsoring. This is misleading and is not allowed.
- Dutch Advertising Code Foundation – Dutch Advertising Code
- 2022 Policy rule regarding advertising by commercial media organizations (in Dutch)
- Dutch Media Authority (CvdM) – 2022 Policy rule regarding sponsoring by commercial media organizations (in Dutch)
- Dutch Media Authority (CvdM) – 2022 Policy rule regarding product placement by commercial media organizations (in Dutch)
- Dutch Media Act 2008 (in Dutch)
- Directive 2010/13/EU (Audiovisual Media Services Directive – consolidated version)