New Influencer Marketing Guidelines Published By The Finnish Consumer Ombudsman
6 May 2019
Authors: Sarita Scröder and Panu Siitonen
The Finnish Consumer Ombudsman has published new guidelines on how to communicate the commercial nature of influencer marketing to consumers. The guidelines, which are currently only available in Finnish (here), include practical examples concerning the most commonly used social media platforms. However, the principles contained in the guidelines are applicable to all influencer marketing.
As a general rule, all marketing must be readily identifiable as such, regardless of the way it is presented, the medium through which it is presented, and the device on which it is viewed by the consumer. To fulfil this requirement, it should be clearly indicated at the beginning of each commercial post that the post is an advertisement. In addition, the advertiser’s name or trademark should be displayed in the same context. This information should be provided in the same language as the content of the post.
The Consumer Ombudsman recommends using the term “advertisement” (Finnish: “mainos”), but it is also acceptable to use the term “commercial partnership” (Finnish: “kaupallinen yhteistyö”), which is perhaps more popular in practice.
If an influencer receives free products from a company even though there is no formal agreement between them, this should also be clearly indicated at least when the products are shown for the first time or if the post significantly relates to the products. The Consumer Ombudsman recommends using the phrase “product received for free” (Finnish: “saatu ilmaistuote”) at the beginning of the post.
Posts including affiliate links should clearly indicate this, for example, by including the text “includes affiliate links, affiliate links marked with the symbol *” (Finnish: “sisältää mainoslinkkejä, mainoslinkit merkitty *-merkillä”) at the beginning of the post. The asterisk or other symbol chosen to mark affiliate links should be placed in front of the links, and an influencer should consistently use the same symbol.
The Consumer Ombudsman encourages influencers to take advantage of the paid promotion disclosure features that many social media platforms offer. However, the use of these features alone is insufficient – especially if they do not enable the name or trademark of the advertiser to be displayed.
In addition, the commercial nature of the post should be indicated:
- in writing at the beginning of the text field of an Instagram post;
- as a clearly distinguishable text overlay in an Instagram Story;
- as a clearly distinguishable text overlay at the beginning of a YouTube video and in writing at the beginning of the description field below the video;
- in writing at the beginning of a blog post and optionally also at the beginning of the title (e.g. “ADVERTISEMENT: [title]”); and
- orally at the beginning of a podcast and in writing at the beginning of the description field of the episode or, if this is not possible, at the beginning of the episode title.
If a podcast includes commercial breaks similar to those of commercial radio stations, the phrase “contains advertising” (Finnish: “sisältää mainontaa”) should be included at the beginning of the description field, and a clearly discernible audio symbol should be used to separate the commercial content from the rest of the content.
Liability for Breaches
By law, an advertiser is liable for the identifiability of its advertising regardless of whether it is carried out in collaboration with a professional influencer or a hobbyist influencer. However, a professional influencer may be jointly liable with the advertiser for possible breaches. To fulfil its obligations, an advertiser must instruct and require the influencers it collaborates with to communicate clearly to consumers the commercial nature of the content they produce for the advertiser.
Our marketing law experts are on hand to provide advertisers with further guidance on how to ensure compliance with the applicable legislation and to assist in drafting and negotiating commercial partnership agreements with influencers or in defending claims brought by the Consumer Ombudsman.