Italian competition Authority investigates on influencer marketing

The Italian competition authority (AGCM) is currently investigating influencer marketing practices carried out on social media.

Influencer marketing consists in the posting on blogs, vlogs and social networks (such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, Myspace) of photos, videos, and comments by bloggers and influencers (i.e. online celebrities having a large number of followers), showing support or approval of specific brands (i.e. giving an endorsement), thus generating an advertising effect, without making clear to consumers the commercial intent of the communication.

This phenomenon is increasingly growing in size because of its effectiveness, given the ability of influencers to establish a strong relationship with their followers-consumers, who perceive such communications as advice based on personal experience and not as advertisement. Often, the pictures displaying a specific brand, posted on the personal profile of the celebrity, are mixed with neutral photos, in a flow of images that give the impression of being a private account of the celebrity’s daily routine. Sometimes the photos represent a domestic environment and are shot without using advanced techniques, while in other cases the type of image, the posture of the celebrity, and the surroundings clearly hint to a professional photo shoot. Moreover, the visibility of the product varies substantially, given the heterogeneity of the type of post and of the kind of celebrity. In some cases, the brand name is quoted in the hashtag of the post, in other situations instead they occupy a prominent position in the picture. In addition, the post can be associated with emphatic comments on the product itself.

As prescribed by the Consumer Code in Italy, in order to grant the maximum degree of transparency and clarity on the potential advertising content of the posts published by celebrities, the AGCM, with the collaboration of the Antitrust Unit of the Financial Police, has sent moral suasion letters to some of the main influencers and companies producing the branded goods displayed in the posts.

In the letters, after reminding the addressees that advertisements must always be clearly recognizable as such by consumers, the AGCM has stressed that the prohibition of hidden advertising has a general validity and therefore must be respected also in communications delivered through social networks. Therefore, influencers cannot make consumers believe they are behaving in an unsolicited and unselfish manner when they are actually promoting a specific brand.

The AGCM has thus identified general rules of conduct and has required the addressees to make apparent the possible advertising nature of the content delivered through social media, through the use of warnings, such as #ad, #sponsored, #advertising, #paidad, or, in the case of products given for free to the celebrity, #productsuppliedby; in particular, all these wordings should be followed by the name of the specific brand being advertised.

Given that hidden marketing is considered to be particularly dangerous, since it deprives consumers of the natural defenses that arise in the presence of a declared advertising intent, the AGCM urges all those involved in the phenomenon to abide to the prescriptions of the Consumer Code, providing consumers with suitable indications able to reveal the nature of the message, also when it is the outcome of a commercial relationship, and even when it is based on the free provision of branded goods to the celebrity.

Food products are often subject for influencer marketing: in Italy we had cases related to infant formula, slimming beverages.

Before the Italian AGCM, to my knowledge, only the UK CMA did something similar in the past: see the following link.

1st Food Law in Asia International Conference – Export, Labelling and Countering Fraud

I am very proud to announce that I will be chairing this one of a kind event in Europe, realised by Lexxion Publisher and supported by Food Industry Asia (FIA) and HFG Law Firm, one of the leading firm in China in food and intellectual property sectors.

A special thank to my colleague and friend Nicola Aporti for helping out in everything.

The event will be on 12th June 2017 in Amsterdam, Hampshire Hotel – American.

This first international conference on Asian food law, will be bringing together experts and practitioners from various European and Asian countries. High-profile lecturers from industry and private practice will familiarise participants with the ins and outs of the Asian food market and answer their questions.

The speakers will provide an insight into the legal and regulatory complexities of the Asian food market, update participants on the most recent developments in Asian food law and introduce them to the most relevant cultural aspects of the region. The sessions will combine presentations, case studies and Q&As allowing you to discuss your questions with our experts.

Speaker’s list:

  • Cesare Varallo
    Food Lawyer in Italy, Vice President – Business and Regulatory Affairs EU – INSCATECH, Turin (Chair)
  • Nicola Aporti
    Head of Corporate and Food Regulatory, HFG Law & Intellectual Property, Shanghai
  • Akihisa Shiozaki
    Partner at Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu, Tokyo
  • Katia Merten-Lentz
    Partner at Keller and Heckman LLP, Brussels
  • YiFan Jiang
    Regional Regulatory Affairs Manager at Food Industry Asia (FIA), Singapore
  • Fabio Giacopello, Partner at HFG Law & Intellectual Property, Shanghai
  • Michael Jahnz, Senior Manager at Wessling Consulting Ltd., Shanghai
  • Tania Porsgaard Bayer, Team Manager Regulatory Affairs at Arla Foods Ingredients, Denmark

You can find the full program here and register here.

For more information about the event, please contact Clara Hausin at hausin@lexxion.de or write me at foodlawlatest@gmail.com

Hope to see you there!

Here below a taste of the topics:

A General Introduction to Export in Asia

  • Cultural issues
  • How to incorporate regulatory aspects into your export strategy

Cesare Varallo, Food Lawyer in Italy, Vice President – Business and Regulatory Affairs EU – INSCATECH, Turin

The Policy and Regulatory Landscape for the Food Industry in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities

  • Complexity of the regulatory environment in Asia
  • Key challenges (food safety and nutrition policies, SPS and TBT issues, regulatory differencies etc.)
  • Opportunities for harmonisation

YiFan Jiang, Regional Regulatory Affairs Manager at Food Industry Asia (FIA), Singapore

Export from the EU to China: General Trade Issues

  • Structure of competent authorities
  • Registration and general requirements for export
  • Mandatory labelling
  • Novel foods

Katia Merten-Lentz, Partner at Keller and Heckman LLP, Brussels

Advertising, E-Commerce and Consumer Protection

  • Intellectual property & advertising
  • E-commerce
  • Consumer protection & compliance

Nicola Aporti, Head of Corporate and Food Regulatory, HFG Law & Intellectual Property, Shanghai

Milk Sector and Infant Formula in China

Tania Porsgaard Bayer, Team Manager Regulatory Affairs at Arla Foods Ingredients, Denmark

Important local testing standards for the Chinese market

  • Differences to ISO testing standards
  • Recent news in Chinese standards

Michael Jahnz, Senior Manager at Wessling Consulting Ltd., Shanghai

The Impact of the EU GI on the Chinese Trademark System

Fabio Giacopello, Partner at HFG Law & Intellectual Property, Shanghai

New Developments in Japanese Food Law

  • Recent developments in Japanese food law and labelling requirements
  • Newly introduced sanctions on mislabeling
  • Case studies on crisis management relating to the Japanese food market

Akihisa Shiozaki, Partner at Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu, Tokyo

Counterfeiting and Food Frauds Issues in Asia

  • Practical examples
  • How to prevent fraud and protect your brand
  • The transparency challenge and ongoing initiatives in Asia

Cesare Varallo, Food Lawyer in Italy, Vice President – Business and Regulatory Affairs EU – INSCATECH, Turin

Final Round-Table Discussion with Companies and Trade Association Representatives