ASCI Guidelines Applicable on Influencers in India

Are you someone who promotes or talks about a brand on your social media handles, including your websites or YouTube channel? If yes, then you must read this post to make yourself aware of the Guidelines[1] issued by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI)[2] effective from 14 June, 2021, to ensure compliance. Therefore, these Guidelines needs to be complied with for all digital media content (e.g., posts, videos, webinars, live streams, podcasts, etc.) published or conducted by Influencers on or after 14 June 2021.

Who needs to comply with these Guidelines?

The Guidelines applies to all ‘influencers’, irrespective of how they name or prefer to position themselves (brand ambassador, mentor, etc.). For the sake of clarity, the term, ‘Influencer’ has been clearly defined as follows: 

“someone having access to an audience and power to affect such audiences’ purchasing decisions or opinions about a product, service, brand or experience, because of the influencer’s authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with their audience.”

– Advertising Standards Council of India

Therefore, if you fall in this definition, you know that you are required to follow certain rules and observe certain practices provided by ASCI, and cannot take the liberty to promote brands (whether directly or indirectly) as you wished like earlier times.

What are the rules and standard practices for Influencers?

Let me present the key rules and practices under these Guidelines in simpler words:

Disclosure Labels

All such content published by Influencers on digital media must have a disclosure label (as per specifications provided in the ASCI Guidelines), clearly identifying such content as paid promotion, partnership or advertisement, whenever there is a Material Connection[3] between the advertiser and the Influencer. Please note such disclosure is required even if you think your content is unbiased and independent evaluation of the product or services. Disclosure label requirements would not be applicable to you, if you are simply putting a content about the product or services you have purchased and liked, without any Material Connection with the advertiser. The term, ‘Material Connection’ is defined as:

“any connection between an advertiser and influencer that may affect the weight or credibility of the representation made by the influencer”.

Manner of Disclosure

The disclosure must be upfront and hard to miss, meaning, it should be readily visible (or audible) and not hidden in things like hashtags, links, see more, link in bio, etc. Further, the disclosure should be either in English or in the language of the advertisement itself, in a manner that is easy for an average consumer to understand.

Due Diligence

As per the Guidelines, Influencers should also: (a) do a due diligence of the product or services to satisfy themselves of the quality or advertisement claims; and (b) be able to substantiate the claims made in the advertisement, before engaging in such promotional activities.

Advertiser’s Responsibility

Where an advertiser has a Material Connection with the Influencer, advertiser is also responsible to ensure that “the posted Influencer advertisement is in line with the ASCI code and its Guidelines“. The advertiser should (where required) call upon the Influencer to delete or edit an advertisement or the disclosure label to adhere to the ASCI Code and Guidelines.

Does the Guidelines have a force of law?

ASCI being a self-regulatory and voluntary organization, does not have the power to impose rules that will have force of the statute. Therefore, such rules may not be statutorily enforceable as such. However, rules laid down by ASCI have received judicial recognition from various courts in India and are widely followed as an industry practice for advertisements and promotional content. As this is still an unsettled legal position, whether ASCI can assume jurisdiction to adjudicate on any disputes and award damages to the complainant, the recourse may be available at civil and lower courts for now.

Why these Guidelines?

Given the exponential growth of social media and influencer marketing, the Guidelines seeks to help consumers identify and distinguish a paid or promotional content from regular content published by such influencers. The intent is to prevent advertisers from using influencers to promote their products or services on digital platforms which may be: (a) misleading or untrue; (b) abusive of consumer’s trust; or (c) aimed at exploiting consumer’s lack of experience or knowledge. Please note that we are talking about a reasonable consumer here and not expecting such consumers to be an expert (having done an extensive research about the product or services).

The earlier ASCI Code only covered ‘celebrity’ with the definition of ‘celebrity’ setting too high a standard (in terms of compensation or listing in word class magazines) for social media influencers to fall in this category.

List or Permitted Disclosure Labels:
– Advertisement
– Ad
– Sponsored
– Collaboration
– Partnership
– Employee
– Free gift
You can choose one or more among these.

Manner of Disclosure for Videos:

Videos that last 15 seconds or lesser: The disclosure label must stay for a minimum of 3 seconds.

Videos longer than 15 seconds, but less than 2 minutes: The disclosure label should stay for 1/3rd of the length of the video.

Videos which are 2 minutes or longer: The disclosure label must stay for the entire duration of the section, in which the promoted brand or its features, benefits, etc. are mentioned.

Manner of Disclosure for Live Streams and Audio Media:

Live Streams (like Instagram Live): The disclosure label should be announced at the beginning and the end of the broadcast. If the post continues to be visible after the live stream is over, appropriate disclosure must be added to the text/ caption.

Audio Media (like podcasts, Club House): The disclosure must be clearly announced at the beginning and at the end of the audio, and before and after every break that is taken in between.

[1] Guidelines For Influencer Advertising In Digital Media available here.

[2] ASCI is vested with the authority to monitor, administer and promote standards of advertising practices in India with a view to, codify adopt and from time to time modify the code of advertising practices in India and implement, administer, promote and publicize such a code, as one of the goals.

[3] The term, ‘Material Connection’ is broad enough to include not only the typical monetary benefits, compensations or incentives, but also indirect gains like free products or accessories, gifts, discounts, participation in contests or events, discounted trips or hotel stays, barter of media promotions, brand representations/titles, awards, etc.

Disclaimer: Regulations of Bar Council of India do not permit me to advertise about my website and my works. All the contents on this website are only for general information and do not constitute advice. Any content of the website should not be interpreted as soliciting or advertising, nor should any reader act (or refraining from making) any decision on the basis of any statement contained herein without seeking professional advice.


Published by Vivek Kumar Verma

Investment Banking Lawyer | Photographer & Blogger | Connoisseur of Food | Poet

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