Public in France asked for feedback on online influencers

The government is looking to implement a code of conduct after numerous controversies. We speak to two companies that work with influencers

The public has been asked to give their opinion and experience regarding online influencers
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The public has been asked for its feedback on online influencers with the aim of creating a new code of conduct to regulate their actions.

This comes after a number of controversies, including influencers promoting products but failing to disclose that they were being paid to do this by brands.

The open call for comments closes at midnight tonight (January 31). You can find the link to add your comments here. [This site was particularly slow when we tried to access it.]

So far there have been over 18,000 participants and nearly 5,000 comments in total.

The Ministry of Economics and Finance had invited people to suggest ideas to implement a ‘code of conduct’ around the influencer industry.

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The consultation looks at the rights and duties of professional influencers, consumer protection, intellectual property protection and sector governance.

Several controversies have impacted the industry in the last few years.

A recent high-profile case involved Magali Berdah, a reality-TV star, whose promotion of controversial drop-shipping practices was denounced on social media by popular French rapper Booba.

Promotion of drop-shipping business models - in which an individual seller uses third-party sites like Amazon to sell products they buy from wholesalers, without the need for warehouses - has been classed as a scam in the past due to the “get rich quick” style of advertising that often accompanies these practices.

An investigation into Ms Berdah’s company, Shauna Events, was launched in September, regarding alleged “misleading commercial practices” according to 20Minutes.

The government also wants to enforce stricter regulations on which products can be promoted, to avoid influencers misleading their subscribers.

Read also about how a TikTok trend promoting two antidiabetic drugs for weight loss led French health bodies to quickly issue a notice of alert against the practice.

Influencer reach

Certain influencers in France have massive followings, when combining followers across multiple social media platforms like TikTok, Twitch, Instagram, and Snapchat.

Léa Elui (30.1 million subscribers) and Squeezie (43.4 million subscribers) are two of the biggest examples.

The French newspaper Le Figaro says that the value of the influencer industry is increasing rapidly and is valued at several hundreds of millions of euros in France.

Many brands are now switching from using traditional advertising methods, such as TV and radio, to using influencers to increase their online reach.

The consultation also involved certain companies that work directly with influencers, such as Reech, a Paris-based influence marketing company, whose clients include Carrefour, Unilever, Phillips, Kellogg’s and Coca-Cola.

These companies were summoned by the Ministry of Economics and Finance to discuss the industry following the launch of the consultation.

Read also: French restaurateur tries to encourage less phone use during meals

Influencer or Content creator?

While no definition exists, content creators could be understood purely as publishers of content on social media, while influencers more frequently collaborate with brands to promote products.

14% of French people said content creators and influencers were two titles with different meanings, according to a 2023 marketing influence study carried out by Reech.*

Almost half (47%) said they characterise content creators as influencers, and 27% used both terms interchangeably.

One of the government’s proposals is to look into introducing a clear definition of an “influencer”.

The survey also found that certain key-words were more strongly associated with the different job titles.

35% of respondents labelled “content creators” as those who make online content and 15% labelled them as advertisers. For “influencers”, 30% view them as advertisers of products and only 24% see them as creators of content.

The director of Reech, Guillaume Doki-Thonon, says there is an emerging difference between influencers and reality-TV stars; “Influencers do not live in the same world created by reality-TV candidates. It is like there are two (separate) worlds,” he said.

Changes going forward

The industry is looking to create a dedicated federation in an effort to unify influencers and companies, and to increase regulations of influencer activity.

This will include a new charter of good conduct, listing the rights and duties of an influencer, as well as practical and legal advice.

“We propose to include a restriction from brands sending products to influencers who did not ask for them,” said Stéphane Bouillet, president of Influence4You, another influence marketing company participating in the consultation.

Influence4You collaborates with companies from the beauty, fashion, gaming, lifestyle and high-tech sectors.

Mr Bouillet added that more could be done to help inform influencers around these situations.

“Laws already exist but are not enforced. If infringements from influencers had been severely punished sooner, there would be less of them now,” said Mr Doki-Tonon.

“There are rules our industry already follows,” he added.

Many former French reality-TV and influencers are living abroad and avoiding the French tax system.

The government plans will include the requirement for all influencers to have a legal representation based in France, as well as defining their legal status.

Alongside this, they will enforce contractual obligations between influencers and influence agencies and plans to launch a new website with helpful information around intellectual property.

The government also plans to increase transparency from social media platforms, who will already be forced to verify the conformity and safety of the products sold via their applications starting February 1, 2024.

The plans include the ARPP, France’s association regulating advertising, gaining greater regulating powers.

*Study carried out in collaboration with the Norstat institute, surveying 1,011 social media users.