Why the latest TGA influencer ruling is a win for authentic content creators

influencer

Taryn Williams, CEO and founder, theright.fit and WINK Models. Source: supplied.

There’s been a truckload of media commentary on the impact of the latest TGA influencer ruling, which effectively brings influencers in line with the rest of the industry regarding the advertising of therapeutic goods.

And boy, have the media had a field day with the announcement. 

The now-debunked but highly inflammatory article in The Australian, which suggested that influencers were now being blanket banned from receiving payment in cash or kind for promoting anything from a long list of classified health and wellness products, was a prime example of the fear mongering and misinformation influencers contend with on the daily.

It’s true, the media love to rip into influencers. A 2020 article in The Australian likened them to cockroaches. Sky News host Joe Hildebrand recently blamed them for “the downfall of humankind”. Just this month, the Sydney Morning Herald’s Sarah Berry called social media the “wild west when it comes to health information, a platform where fantasy and reality meld seamlessly,” effectively equating influencers to outlaws. Harsh! 

Is it any wonder the myth of the reckless, greedy influencer galloping through the boundless frontiers of social media in nothing more than a bikini, continues to be perpetuated?

Personally, I think the new ruling is a great thing. Influencing is here to stay. At theright.fit, we’ve seen a 70% increase in jobs posted for influencers in the last 12 months, and a 43% increase in brands seeking influencers with key expertise such as scientists, dermatologists, dietitians, skincare experts, doctors, and highly qualified professionals who can work collaboratively with a brand on ensuring their marketing initiatives strike the right balance between engaging social content, and meeting TGA guidelines. Influencers are not just pretty faces. Often, they are highly trained experts in particular niches, and should be respected as so.

The new ruling is also a win for the consumer, given the TGA code’s core function of “ensuring the marketing and advertising of therapeutic goods is conducted in a way that promotes the quality use of the product, is socially responsible and does not mislead or deceive the consumer”.

But what we’re also seeing, finally, are regulators — in this case the TGA — being forced to stand up and take notice of the social media landscape. It shows that influencer marketing is such a prevalent, successful, and fast-growing channel, that clarity around how goods and services classified as therapeutic can be marketed, is now essential.

No wonder the traditional media channels are feeling threatened by the power of these new channels. Social media has grown into a mini media powerhouse of its very own. Like any new channel or medium, it’s going to evolve, and the regulations around how advertisers interact with consumers will need to continue to evolve with it — and that’s a good thing.

The scaremongering triggered by The Australian article in question caused a lot of confusion and upset in the industry. Reputable brands — passionate Australian small businesses such as Naked Sundays sunscreen, and Vida Glow collagen, for example — were led to believe that they could no longer use influencers or social media which in many cases had been a huge part of their success. 

It also led to a vast amount of uncertainty for creators. Were they going to be fined? How was this new landscape going to be regulated? Whose responsibility would it be to ensure posts and campaigns now adhered to the new guidelines — the brand’s or the influencer’s? And what about the directive that historical posts that do not meet the new guidelines needed to be removed by June 30; how was that going to be managed or policed?

This was not a well-planned, strategic, or even useful rollout. Perhaps it was leaked? Certainly, the TGA website, still, does not contain any clearly-worded information to help address or answer any of these questions, which has continued to cause further stress and upset for brands and influencers alike.

Thankfully, a number of influencers and influencer agencies — digital marketing agencies and brands who have built their businesses through their work with influencers — immediately sought legal advice, then used their own social channels to provide some clarity for the broader community, dousing the flames fanned by the mainstream media. The irony! I saw hundreds of Instagram stories, over the week following the news being broken, by people and brands answering questions, posting information, and sharing legal advice, which goes to show the true power of the influencer and social media communities.

According to Collabstr’s 2022 Influencer Marketing Report, the influencer marketing industry’s market size grew 42% year-on-year globally in 2021 and is projected to continue to boom into a US$15 billion ($20 billion) market by the end of 2022. And what’s clear from the events of the past few weeks is that, in an industry of this size and scale, it’s now imperative that regulatory shifts are rolled out strategically and cohesively, for the benefit of all involved — brands, creators, and consumers.

Cockroaches indeed. You ain’t seen nothing yet!

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