In January 2022, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) updated their Social Media Advertising Guide to clarify how influencers can discuss therapeutic goods which includes products such as bandages, sunscreen or contraception.
We applaud the TGA for implementing the code update as a step towards tackling the misinformation and irresponsible spruiking of therapeutic products online. However, we want to see better education by the TGA for influencers including the growing content creator and streamer community.
Initial media reports of the updated code incorrectly claimed a full ban on all paid and gifted advertisements of therapeutic goods. Unfortunately, these reports weren’t clarified or corrected until the Australian Influencer Marketing Council (AiMCO) noted in a recent statement: “However, the updated TGA does not ban promotion of these items by influencers, rather this brings the rules for influencers in line with all advertising for therapeutic goods; influencers fall under the same long standing TGA requirements as other advertising formats.
“The key consideration with regard to application of the code hinges on the interpretation of endorsement versus testimonials, as the latter are banned and have always been for therapeutic goods under the TGA Code.”
Creators within our community who currently work as ambassadors for a well-known weight loss product, upon seeing the initial media reports, have felt like they’ve been left in the lurch. One of these creators is Jurdman, who said, “The idea that a content creator’s partnerships, that they have worked hard to form, can be just taken away, is unfair. Especially when it is a partnership or product they wholeheartedly believe in.”
The confusion and concern extends to our other community member Uber Timmeh, who said, “I think this move is a double edged sword. It’s obvious that the influencer industry when it comes to health and well-being is being exploited by some people and personalities that are looking to make a quick dollar.”
“But I also believe there are a lot of companies out there who are legitimately trying to improve the lives of others and they rely on testimonials and paid brand ambassadors to get that message out. I believe in regulation of the industry but a flat out ban on sponsored or paid posts seems like a heavy handed approach.”
Content creators and streamers across platforms like Twitch, TikTok, Twitter and Discord want to responsibly and genuinely work with brands or companies that they align with as well. Conversely, brands and companies are recognising the work produced by these content creators and want to collaborate with them. Both, from our experience in the Australian region, also care about their viewers and customers wanting to bring more genuine experiences to influencer marketing campaigns. This care includes the wide acceptance and compliance with AANA disclosure guidelines.
From our unique position in the industry, we’re keenly aware of the difficulties that both brands and creators face when it comes to collaborative marketing campaigns. Brands face challenges finding content creators and content creators face an uphill battle starting relationships with the right brands. When these relationships eventually spark, we want to see them facilitated effectively and sincerely so that it’s a win-win-win situation for content creators and their loyal communities.
Creators should be empowered with the right information and guidelines in a clear manner using plain and accessible language. Appropriate FAQs and support lines should be available in order to obtain clarity. This includes using plain language to explain what is covered under therapeutic goods. In addition, we believe stronger advocacy on behalf of creators should be present in industry decisions that have a direct impact on their livelihood.
Without timely, appropriate guidance and communication, creators risk being caught out needlessly whether that be through loss of trust or loss of income via financial penalty or lost brand sponsorships. A working relationship between regulatory bodies and those who want to comply with all necessary rules would be the most beneficial step for all stakeholders involved. For example, one of the best plain-language influencer guidelines from overseas is the American Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s ‘Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers’ document. A clear document like this that is targeted towards influencers and content creators
We know that our community is working to professionalise the creator economy – we want to see companies and government bodies alike acknowledge them as professionals.