Marketing with a focus on digital

Just four syllables: Influencer marketing disclosure done right

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is the fear of long words. True story. This is relevant because when marketers start getting into details about things like regulatory compliance, the jargon and complexity involved can all give us all a touch of anxiety. Fortunately, social media influencer marketing is different.

Top Left Says "Ad"

Compliance with disclosure regulations is that simple. Four monosyllabic words. And I'm not taking in a "Use this philosophy to build a culture of compliance," sort of way. Those four syllables are the whole instruction manual. Do that, and you're compliant.

But if disclosure requirements for social media influencer marketing can be summed up so simply, why is there so much push back from the influencer industry on it? Why is there so much resistance to the clarity of the word "ad" and the conspicuousness of the "top left" placement? Influencers and their agencies have voiced concerns that labeling their work with that dirty word hurts their "authenticity."

Don't get me wrong, authenticity is important. Authenticity is what makes influencer marketing work. But authenticity comes from an influencer's style and beliefs. Everyone involved should want the product of a partnership to match the influencer's style and reflect the influencer's true beliefs. That creates authenticity, makes the audience happier, makes this content perform better, and is a sustainable way for influencers to monetize their audience. So by all means, let's be authentic.

But even having genuinely authentic content doesn't change what the partnership is: Someone taking money and a creative brief from a company, producing an ad, and placing it on media channels. That's an ad. If an influencer doesn't think that's authentic, s/he shouldn't do it.

Let's make it happen

Andy Sernovitz from puts it well when he says, "Anything that makes an ad look like not an ad is wrong." That is authentic. Tricking people into watching sponsored content? Not so much. So why isn't this letter-of-the-law disclosure universal? Because a critical mass of marketers haven't demanded it yet.

And I understand why. The resistance from influencers and agencies is stiff. You have to fight through iterations of "Is this good enough?" and eventually they give you one that's at least better than most of the other stuff out there. Plus you have two hundred unread emails in your inbox. So you say "Fine."

Next time, don't. Saying "fine" only perpetuates the lack of consistency that was just used to justify those time-wasting iterations. Using these four syllables will create clarity that will save you time this time, and will create the consistency needed to make this whole debate go away forever, saving you time next time.

So say it with me: Top left says "Ad."