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Under the Italian Consumer Code on misleading advertising (which implements the EU Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (2005/29/EC)), and the Code of Advertising Self-Regulation, it is a requirement that advertising by influencers is transparent and allows consumers to recognise the advertising as such. The Italian Competition Authority (Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato or “AGCM”) oversees the enforcement of consumer rights and acts against unfair or misleading commercial activities.
In addition, advertising industry businesses are bound by the Italian advertising self-regulation rules that are issued and monitored by the Istituto dell’Autodisciplina Pubblicitaria (Italy’s Advertising Self-Regulatory Institute or “IAP”). It has a Review Board which serves as the IAP’s body for protecting consumer interests and is in charge of verifying the propriety of marketing. The IAP also has a jury (or panel) which acts as a decision-making body.
The IAP’s guidelines, known as the “IAP Digital Chart”, state the following in relation to influencer marketing:
- When comments or opinions expressed by an influencer about a product or brand have the characteristics of a marketing communication, they are subject to the IAP’s self-regulatory rules.
- When an influencer enters into an agreement with an advertiser (or with a third party representing an advertiser) to promote a product or a brand, his or her post constitutes a marketing communication.
- Should it not be clearly evident from the context, the promotional purpose of the comment or opinion that an influencer has expressed must be disclosed to the user in an appropriate manner.
- There are no compulsory ways of signalling to users the promotional end-purpose of the content expressed. However, in order to make the promotional nature of content posted on social media and content sharing sites recognisable, influencers must, at the top of their post, state in a clearly distinguishable manner the words:
- “Pubblicità” (“Advertising”), or “Promosso da …” (“Promoted by…”) or “Sponsorizzato da…” (“Sponsored by…brand”) or “in collaborazione con …” (“in partnership with the …”); and/or
- within the first three hashtags (#) use one of the following terms: “#Pubblicità” (“#Advertising”), “#Sponsorizzato da … “ (“#Sponsored by the …”) or “#ad”unitamente a “#brand””
- If, on the contrary, the relationship between the influencer and the advertiser is limited to the advertiser occasionally sending their products free or in exchange for a modest sum, and the celebrity/influencer/blogger names these products, uses them or displays them in their posts, in such cases there is no need to add the notification above, but merely a clearly-legible disclaimer saying something along the lines of: “product sent by the …brand”.
Link to the IAP Digital Chart: