Influencer marketing through social media influencers has reached to giant growth in the advertising area. Brands including global and local ones cooperate with social media influencers for advertisings of their brands, goods and services because social media influencers are very capable of directing the consumers’ buying habits into certain brands via the presentations, recommendations and compliments they make.
In Turkey, there are no specific laws relating to advertising through social media. There are no specific laws, regulations, or self-regulatory rules related to influencer marketing via social media. General advertising rules and principles are applied in this area. Supervision of advertisements via social media is subject to the same laws and regulations as advertisements in any other kind of media. Influencer marketing should also adhere to rules regarding conformity to public order, fair competition, public/moral values, and accuracy, which are the main principles regulating advertising in Turkey. Advertising of prohibited categories of products such as tobacco/alcohol products, pharmaceuticals through influencer marketing could be considered as the circumvention of the law and could be banned. Hence the advertising prohibitions and restrictions should carefully be respected in influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing can be categorized as a particular form of testimonial advertising. Although testimonials are not defined in the body of the Consumer Protection Law, which is the main legislation regulating advertisements in Turkey, the Regulation on Commercial Advertisements and Unfair Practices (“Advertising Regulation”) provides certain rules and limitations on testimonials. Testimonials generally consist of written or spoken statements of individuals who have used the product that is being advertised, communicating the quality and superiority of the product. The Advertising Regulation stipulates that advertisements shall not include or refer to any testimony or endorsement that is not authentic, nor based on the experience of the testifier. Regarding influential marketing, the problem arises when the social media influencer is sharing an experience that is fictional, pursuant to his/her advertising agreement with the brand owner.
Another issue of law regarding influential marketing is when the social media influencer, who is financially supported by a brand, does not explicitly communicate this affiliation or the fact that its post essentially serves as an advertisement for the brand. Such behavior is contrary to the prohibition of hidden advertisements. In this scenario, the consumer could think that the social media influencer shares his / her sincere opinion about the product or services without having any affiliation with the brand owner although the social media influencer is supported by the brand in backstage. This act could be considered within the scope of the hidden advertisement ban.
The Advertising Regulation sets forth the basic principles to be considered, including that an advertisement should be clearly distinguishable, regardless of the format, or the broadcasting media. When a presentation including influencer marketing is broadcasted in any media it shall be clearly stated that it is an advertisement. In case the social media influencer is endorsed by a brand the presentation of the social media influencer will be deemed as advertising. It should clearly be disclosed to the consumer that the acts of the social media influencer are advertising. The relationship between the social media influencer and the brand could also be disclosed. The consumer, while making its buying decision, should take this into consideration. It is generally advised influencers to clearly cite the affiliation with the brand in his/her posts containing advertorial content. This should be made in a way that the consumer could not miss. For eliminating associated risks the distinctive sign, trademark could be cited as sponsor.
The Advertisement Board, which is established under the Turkish Ministry of Trade, is the main authority to control advertisements in Turkey, the Advertisement Board’s duties are not restricted to reviewing any particular form of media and, therefore, all forms of social media advertisements are also legally subject to review. The control is weakened due to the lack of specific rules related to advertising and marketing via social media. Yet there are few decisions of the Advertisement Board in this area.