Skip to contentSkip to navigation

This is not an #ad: Evolving expectations for influencer marketing disclosure

It seems every day we hear a new reason about why we should be skeptical of what we encounter online – from fake news to fake followers, Canadian social media users are left feeling like they need to critically review every piece of content they like, retweet or share.

While it seems like we’re in the wild west era of social media, there are a few organizations looking to bring back the trust. Unilever, the world’s second-biggest advertiser, recently announced that they will never buy followers or work with influencers who buy followers (something we’ve tried ourselves in the name of science). They’ll also be prioritizing social media platforms that proactively try to increase transparency on their channels.

Why does it matter that Unilever is cutting out the fake followers? When companies approach influencers, price is often dictated by size of their audience (followers) and the engagement they’ll likely receive. As Reuters states, “fake followers are often machine-generated profiles fueled by ‘bots’ or software applications that mimic human behavior. They can ‘like’ or comment on posts, giving the impression of popularity or engagement.” So really it’s a lose/lose situation for everyone – consumers get duped by thinking an influencer is in fact influential and command a large audience, and companies lose for paying for engagement from robots rather than people.

But Unilever isn’t the only one taking a stand. Advertising Standards Canada has also recently released a disclosure guideline for influencer marketing as Canada is looking to bring some regulation to the world of social influencers. We’ve condensed the main do’s and don’ts below, but be sure to give the entire guidelines a read for yourself:


  • Hide disclosures
    • Disclosure hashtags (like #ad) should be at the front a post and not hidden in a list of hashtags and avoid ambiguous hashtags like “#collab” “#promo” or “#partner” or unclear disclosures like #companynamead where “ad” can be missed or the nature of the relationship could be misunderstood
  • Use a blanket disclosure
    • Each individual piece of content that is associated with the partnership needs to include a disclosure because often individuals will interact with individual pieces of content without seeing the disclosure on another page


  • Upfront and identifiable
    • There’s no guarantee views will read, hear or see a disclosure message when it’s at the end of a video. Place disclosures at the beginning so it won’t be missed and utilize a social network’s disclosure feature when available
  • Be clear about the brand, product and what was given
    • State the nature of the partnership, name of the brand, and list of the products being promoted so the nature of the relationship and the goods exchanged are clear and easily understood.

While influencers were once a way to easily gain third party credibility, users are starting to feel duped by thinking products and services are getting a genuine stamp of approval. It’s important that companies proactively find a way to create meaningful influencer relationships that prioritize disclosure so Canadians can create informed opinions about the content they engage with. Our influencer marketing experts are happy to chat about the changing expectations of the company-influencer relationship.