Water cooler and triangular chairs

DCMS begins inquiry into influencer culture and the power of influencers in marketing

Published on 09 June 2021

The question

What are the UK government’s future plans for influencer marketing?

Key takeaway

The government is clearly keeping a keen eye on influencers and their impact on society at large, including in the sphere of influencer marketing. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) inquiry will shape potential future legislation, so all relevant stakeholders are encouraged to participate to allow for proper input from the industry.

The background

The DCMS has recently started an inquiry into the power of influencers on social media, how influencer culture operates and the absence of national regulation on the promotion of products or services on social media. The inquiry is also set to look at influencers’ impact on media and popular culture, as well as the positive role they can play through raising awareness of specific issues. The inquiry follows on from the ASA’s report earlier this year, which shows a high level of non-compliance by influencers posts as such. The CMA also found similar levels of non-compliance in their research into influencer marketing (with 75% of influencers “burying” their disclosures in their posts).

The inquiry

The DCMS is inviting written submissions from stakeholders, for example social media platforms and services like YouTube where influencers are featured prominently. The questions are:
  • how would you define “influencers” and “influencer culture”? Is this a new phenomenon?
  • has “influencing” impacted popular culture? If so, how has society and/or culture changed because of this side of social media?
  • is it right that influencers are predominantly associated with advertising and consumerism, and if not, what other roles should influencers fulfil online?
  • how are tech companies encouraging or disrupting the activities of influencing?
  • how aware are users of the arrangements between influencers and advertisers?
  • should policymakers, tech companies and influencers and advertisers themselves do more to ensure these arrangements are transparent?

Why is this important?

The inquiry appears to signal intent by the government to propose further legislation around influencers in the future, which will undoubtedly apply to brands as well as influencers.

The DCMS has indicated that it is looking into further regulation around a lack of transparency around the promotion of products or services by influencers on social media (potentially including the specific terms under which companies and influencers collaborate on social media). The extent of any future legislation remains to be seen and will be shaped by the inquiry and answers DCMS receive from stakeholders.

Any practical tips?

The deadline for the submission of answers to the DCMS’ queries was on 7 May 2021, and the DMCS' findings will be hotly anticipated in the near future.