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.

Summer Academy in Global Food Law and Policy 2017

The Summer Academy in Global Food Law & Policy is an established one-week summer programme that brings together practitioners, policymakers, industry representatives and leading academics working in the field of food law and policy.

It offers intensive training on the most innovative developments in global food regulation and provides a unique opportunity for professional development and networking in an informal and inter-disciplinary setting.

By talking, studying and interacting with food experts from all over the world, participants are able to gain new perspectives into both their own sectors and international regulatory issues.

This is achieved by combining traditional classroom instruction with experiential learning opportunities offered by dedicated and distinguished international experts.

The Academy will take place from Monday, 17 July, to Thursday, 20 July, 2017 in Bilbao, Spain.

The choice of this vibrant city will enable participants to benefit from the world renowned Basque cuisine, its privileged geographical location between the Atlantic sea and the Rioja region, as well as its distinctive architectural landscapes (with the Guggenheim Museum, Norman Foster’s Undergroud, the towers by Arata Isozaki and César Pelli and the Calatrava’s airport).

2017’s edition keynote speaker will be Dr. Ala Alwan, the former Assistant Director General for non-communicable diseases and mental health at the World Health Organization and regional director for the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region.

Also this year I will be there, leading a panel which will explore risks and opportunities of the application of new technologies and internet of things in the food sector.

You can apply until 31st May 2017 to the following link and here you can download the full program.

Here’s a preview:

The International Trade Regime of Food: a WTO Perspective

Erik Wijkström, Trade and Environment Division, Secretary of the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade at the World Health Organization

Food Labeling: Can Labels Reshape the World?

Melissa M. Card, J.D., Institute for Food Laws and Regulations, Michigan State University College of Law

What Role for the Law in the Prevention of Non-Communicable Diseases? Focus on the Obesity Challenge

Alberto Alemanno, Jean Monnet Professor of EU Law at HEC Paris and Global Clinical Professor of Law at NYU School of Law

Unlocking the Mindful Consumer: Where Business Performance and Public Policy Goals Meet

Francesco Tramontin, Chair of the AIM/Nudge Task Force and Director Public Affairs Mondelez International

Bridging the Gap between Behavioural Policymaking and Obesity: Unleashing the Power of Peers for Healthy Nutrition

Pelle Guldborg Hansen, University of Roskilde

Business and Human Rights: Opportunities and Challenges for a Food Company Embarking on the Social Sustainability Journey

Virginie Mahin, External Communications Manager at Mondelez Europe

Chile’s Super 8 Front-of-Package Food Labelling Law and its Interactions with the Global Health, Trade, and Investment Architecture

Paul Mertenskoetter, Institute for International Law and Justice at NYU School of Law

The Consumer Information Paradigm: A Critical, European Perspective

Caoimhin Mac Maolain, Trinity College Dublin

Taxing Food and Beverage Products: A Public Health Perspective

Jennifer Pomeranz, Assistant Professor at NYU College of Public Health

A Global Perspective through the Lenses of the Latin American Experience

Oscar Cabrera, Executive Director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law and Visiting Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center

The Application of New Technologies and Internet of Things in the Food Sector: Risks and Opportunities

Cesare Varallo, Food Lawyer, foodlawtest.com founder, and Vice President at INSCATECH