Influencer marketing in Belgium: new guidelines adopted
As a food business operator you want your brand, products or services to be well-known by the public but also more specifically by selected target groups.
To do so, many operators in the food and beverages industry have started to heavily invest in 'influencer marketing'.
To date, there is no specific legislation in Belgium aimed at protecting consumers against misleading influencer marketing practices. That is why the Belgian Advertising Council recently created some guidelines after close consultation with stakeholders in the advertising sector.
These new guidelines only apply if your online influencer marketing meets the following cumulative conditions:
- The online influencer receives a consideration in kind or in cash to communicate about your brand, product or service. Giving a product free of charge for a specified period (e.g. providing samples for the influencer to comment on them) can also be seen as a consideration in kind; and
- The advertiser has significant control over the influencer’s communication (e.g. giving the influencer instructions or requiring the advertiser’s approval before posting).
If you meet these two conditions, you should ensure that your online influencer marketing complies with the following guidelines:
- The influencer’s communication needs to be clearly recognizable as a commercial communication. This can be achieved by:
- An explicit statement indicating that it is a commercial communication (e.g. 'sponsored by…', #promoted or #advertising);
- The context in which the online message appears; and
- Mentioning the brand or the logo, making it clear that it concerns a commercial communication (e.g. #AdvertisingElvea or #SponsoredByDelhaize)
- The influencer’s commercial communication needs to be fair, and cannot contain information or statements that are false or misleading. It should also not induce children into convincing their parents or other adults to purchase a product for them.
What if your influencer marketing does not comply with these guidelines? Not only the online influencer him/herself but also you and your marketing agency can be held responsible for non-compliance. In such event the 'JEP' (the Belgian self-regulated disciplinary body of the advertising sector) may formally request you to change or cancel your non-compliant marketing campaign or even take actions to achieve this goal.
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StéphanieDe SmedtSenior associate Attorney at Law
Stéphanie De Smedt is senior associate within the Litigation & Risk Management Practice Group of our Brussels office.
She is head of the IP/IT & Data Protection Team in Belgium and is team leader of the firm-wide Healthcare and Life Sciences Team.