For the First Time – Paid Influencers in the UAE to Be Licensed
The impact of Influencer Marketing has changed the way many modern companies approach their customers and how they appeal to them, especially though social media sites with blogging, v-logging and photography making a participatory culture the new standard.
Digital Advertising is no longer done just by the company, by using Influencers to spread the word; they can directly appeal to an interested audience with a very direct digital marketing strategy.
However, due to the speed at which technology changes and the difficulty in aligning new trends and techniques with current legal requirements, the Influencer Industry has largely been unlegislated.
The National Media Council in the UAE are now working to professionalise and regulate the industry, with Influencers who receive payment for their services, requiring a license – similar to one that magazines and newspapers must acquire from authorities.
The Council revealed that the licenses are not being designed to stifle creativity; rather they are to ensure earnings are above board and standards are high.
“The new regulations are part of the Council’s plan to promote and develop an advanced legislative and regulatory environment for the UAE media sector.” Mansour Ibrahim Al Mansouri, NMC Director General
The Electronic Media Regulation will apply to all electronic media activities carried out in the UAE – this also includes the Free Zones.
What You Need to Know and Who Absolutely Must Apply
Not every Social Media Influencer will require a license. The new legislation applies to those who are being paid by the company who’s product or service they are promoting, or to those who receive a high value incentive (such as a car) to do so. Influencers who run any online business activities – including E-Commerce, publishing and selling or print video or audio material, would also be affected by this new license.
Influencers and Micro-Influencers who receive free samples of products, or complimentary services (such as a free meal) will not be affected by the license.
Traditional media – such as television, radio, newspapers and magazines, who already have licensed provisions to operate, will not need to secure an extra license to conduct the same activities electronically.
The National Media Council has issued a list of points, in which it urges social media users to:
- Show respect for the UAE Leadership in posts
- Refrain from spreading false information
- Avoid infringing on others privacy
- Abstain from promoting the consumption of drugs and alcohol, gambling, smoking and witchcraft
- Abstain from publishing any information that is detrimental to the National Currency or Economy
Why It’s So Important to Make a Formal Contract With a Sponsor
In the past, it has been common for Influencers and Sponsors to have more informal arrangements and contracts in the UAE. However with International standards forming best practice approaches, businesses and Influencers are being encouraged to arrange contractual relationships to protect the rights and interests of both parties.
Although there is currently no legislation in place in the UAE which requires an Influencer to reveal that they have been paid for their opinion, the NMC has a resolution on advertising standards (Federal National Media Council Resolution 35 of 2012) which includes:
‘The advertising identity shall be clearly determined, and it shall appear as unique and separate from other editorial or media material, and there shall be limits separating the advertisement from any other material in addition to time lapses in case of radio or television broadcasting.’
This means that according to the law – there is a requirement for editorial content to be separated from advertising content. Even though the NMC have not (as yet) applied this law to an Influencer, it is strongly recommended that content which has been paid for, or expresses an opinion based on receiving goods / services for that opinion, state that this is the case.
It has been predicted by lawyers and legal scholars, that the UAE Government will bring in laws that require a clear disclosure – such as #Ad or #Sponsored on Social Media content that has been compensated.
To protect the interests of the Influencer and the Company, a formal contract is preferential to an informal one.
Attorney-At-Law Diana Hamade suggests that when creating an Influencer Marketing Contract, ‘Liability, pay, confidentiality, dispute resolution, indemnity, termination,’ are all points which must be addressed, and she recommends the contract should also ‘cover website legal policies, a social media and digital communications policy, and image rights and privacy.’
Key questions that Influencers should be asking when finalising their contract are:
What is to be included?
Who has creative control over the style and voice of the posting?
How many posts are required, over what channels, and what period of time?
Is the Influencer free to post at their own discretion? If not – what process must the post go through before it can be uploaded?
What hashtags are to be used? Do the posts need to contain hashtags such as #Ad or #Sponsored to ensure clarity? If the posts have been edited in the posting process – how will this be revealed?
What expectations do the Influencer and the Sponsor have for the content? How will they measure its success – for example, the amount of likes, comments, shares, clicks on any web-links, etc?