On 14 September 2021, the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA), the UK’s leading body for advertising groups, launched a Code of Conduct for Influencer Marketing, designed to raise industry standards, improve relationships between brands, talent agencies and influencers, and promote trust and transparency.

Why the need for the Code?

Influencer marketing is an extremely powerful tool that is continuing to evolve, with now over 1,360 influencer platforms and agencies worldwide. But the industry has been plagued with a number of challenges, including rule breaking and deception. Through a common Code, ISBA hopes to align the industry on minimum expected standards that complement and contextualise the various rules, guidance notes and adjudications from the regulators and enforcement bodies.

The Code aims to:

  • ensure compliance with regulatory frameworks set out by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), and CAP/BCAP Codes;
  • improve relationships and promote genuine alignment of values;
  • raise standards of conduct;
  • enable authentic and effective influencer marketing; and
  • deliver transparency.

What does the Code include?

Split into three sections, the 40-point Code offers best practice and guidance on the roles, responsibilities and conduct of the key players, including:

  • providing clear guidance on values, expectations and approach;
  • committing to diversity and inclusion, with zero tolerance for hateful content;
  • allowing influencers to deliver honest and authentic opinions;
  • safeguarding influencers’ wellbeing;
  • working collaboratively and co-creatively;
  • advocating for talent;
  • requiring clear disclosure when an ad is an ad, including when and where to see the #ad label;
  • committing not to use photo filters, photoshopping or editing techniques that give misleading impressions;
  • exercising due diligence in selecting influencers;
  • committing to delivering best content possible;  
  • making clear how content is to be used, including where it is to be posted, how often and for how long; and
  • protecting children and vulnerable groups.

Conclusions: what does this mean for brands and influencers?

The new Code is not a legally binding set of rules, but rather a guide to best practice. It contains commitments from participating brands, agencies and talent, designed to promote accountability.

Several major brands and influencers have already expressed their support in signing up at the launch, including L’Oréal (UK), Tesco, Specsavers, PepsiCo, Lidl and Made.com.

The size and influence of these initial participating brands demonstrate that the Code may well become a new expected standard for the industry and put pressure on influencers and advertisers to up their game.