The pros of greater transparency

Many brands remain unfamiliar with disclosure guidelines, according to a new IZEA Canada report.
The Selfie Pose

A recent report on the state of content and influencer marketing in Canada suggests many brand marketers remain unaware of the industry’s disclosure guidelines when executing their strategies.

In IZEA Canada’s “State of the Creator Economy” report for 2018, one in four marketers surveyed claimed familiarity with Ad Standards’ influencer and content creator guidelines, an increase of 3% since 2017. Moreover, three of every 10 content creators indicated having been asked by their clients to not disclose compensation – a number that IZEA suggests could actually be higher, given the sensitivity of the question.

These findings come as overall use of influencer and content marketing is on the rise in Canada, according to the report.

Despite Ad Standards’ efforts to promote its own influencer guidelines document that was revealed earlier this year (and is based on regulations stipulated in the Competition Act), there continues to be “a lot of grey area” and many marketers remain unsure about what the guidelines are and how they work, says Tiffany Heimpel, managing director for IZEA Canada, and a member of Ad Standards’ Influencer Marketing Steering Committee. “The influencer community is still in its infancy in Canada – that’s what I take from [the report].”

Awareness of the guidelines was higher on the creator side than on the brand and marketer side, according to the report, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given their investment in social, says Heimpel. In contrast, marketers continue to view it as only one part of their overall marketing mix.

Since publishing its influencer guidelines document, Ad Standards has made efforts to educate marketers on their importance through promotion, outreach and seminars, says Janet Feasby, VP of Standards at the organization. For example, Heimpel and Jani Yates, Ad Standards president and CEO, spoke to an association last week, after having been part of the official guidelines launch at AToMiCon this year.

“Have we reached out and connected with everyone? Clearly not. There’s obviously some room for continuing education,” says Yates.

She says it’s possible that many advertisers who don’t work cross-border and are less aware that Canada’s rules mirror those of the U.S.

According to IZEA’s report, 42% of consumer respondents said disclosure has a positive impact on the effectiveness of a sponsored post (it ranked middle-of-the-pack, as the seventh most effective driver overall). Disclosure was seen as more effective than the “fit of the product/brand with the source/writer” (37%) or “how popular the source/writer is” (28%) in consumers’ eyes.

“If you don’t tell them what to think, [consumers] will make their own assumptions, do their own research,” says Heimpel. Many consumers suspect when a post is paid, “but they want to see that disclosure to ensure that they are evaluating properly for their own purchase intent.”