According to the Norwegian Marketing Act, all marketing shall be clearly marked as advertisement. ”Hidden” marketing or advertisement is prohibited. The use of influencers as a marketing channel raises particular concerns in this regard. This kind of marketing can, for inattentive or inexperienced consumers, be perceived as personal recommendations or opinions by the influencer itself. Marketing through influencers is often directed at children and young adults, which has created a need for clarification of the applicable regulations within the area.
The guidelines cover advertising for goods and services related to cosmetic surgery and food supplements or similar products. Marketing of such goods and services which may harm the body image of children and young adults, must be avoided. In the assessment of whether or not the marketing is unlawful, the age of the influencer, the influencer’s general profile, and if this profile may contribute to a body-image pressure or dissatisfaction among children and young adults, must be taken into account. It will also be attributed weight to the use of photos, language or other tools which may create such pressure. Edited photos which creates an incorrect impression of looks or body shape shall be marked, and it is emphasised in the guidelines that all arguments set out in the marketing material must be documentable.
The guidelines are applicable to both influencers and their advertisers. They make clear that influencers are responsible for their own influence and power over children and young adults when they market products and services. The advertisers also have an independent responsibility to ensure that their partners and agents adhere to the regulations.
With the new guidelines comes the establishment of a professional committee for influencer marketing (in Norwegian, “Faglig utvalg for influencermarkedsføring”). The committee shall administer and ensure enforcement of the guidelines. In addition, the committee shall advise on, and be able to affect, marketing which falls under the guidelines.
Complaints concerning breach of the ethical guidelines may be brought before the committee for influencer marketing, which may issue a decision if there has been a breach of the guidelines. The guidelines constitutes a supplement to other applicable laws and regulations on marketing, including the Consumer Authority’s ability to issue financial sanctions for infringements of the Marketing Act. Breaches of the guidelines may also expose the parties to negative publicity in the media and claims for damages.