After I explained that I, too, could make my lockdown-enhanced posterior look perfect with enough Photoshop fiddling, I asked if this woman’s Instagram feed has encouraged her to actually purchase the various potions she peddles.
“It’s hard to know really. I have bought stuff she uses but I don’t know whether or not she is being paid to promote products or if she just uses them because she likes them.”
And herein lies one of my many grievances with these social media celebrities who, as my dear friend and clever colleague, Andrew Hornery, so adroitly once described as “art-directed and brand-conscious denizens of materialism and mediocrity who rule social media and command gazillions of followers supposedly obsessed with their most banal life moments” – no one has been monitoring what is paid content and what’s not on their feeds.
Which is why I am delighted to announce that from this week, the line will no longer be blurred (or, to use their ubiquitous buzzword, blended). You see, these women (OK, there are plenty of perennially shirtless men out there posturing too) from this week (February 1, 2021) must abide by a new advertising Code of Ethics developed by the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA), which imposes obligations on influencers to disclose commercial relationships in a clear, upfront manner that can be easily understood.
The move follows the lead of America and the United Kingdom, where influencers have been legally required to disclose their advertising partnerships by using #ad or #Sponsored since September 2017. This follows the release of the Influencer Marketing Code of Practice by The Australian Influencer Marketing Council (AIMCO) in July to help navigate the new laws.
While breaking the AANA code won’t mean a huge penalty – the association is self-regulating and following the rules is voluntary – it could impact on the brands who advertise via influencers. The Advertising Standards Board can step in and ask for an ad to be taken down with the new laws and furthermore, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) can prosecute for breach of Australian consumer law if they are not. Breaching the law carries a maximum fine of $220,000 per post for an influencer, and $1.1 million for a brand.
However, considering Australian influencers with more than 1 million followers can earn anywhere between $92 and $19,880 per Instagram post (those with between 100,000 and 1 million followers are looking at anywhere between $80 and $1590 per post) such fees can be perceived as piecemeal, and that’s if prosecutions do eventually proceed.
In my mind these guidelines aren’t enough and so, I have a few more rules of engagement to offer influencers that could help with credibility.
Every girl posing in a bikini bottom that is a mere stripe should be made to credit their depilatory methods and the pain threshold that was required. Those with tarantula legs for eyelashes should admit they are not the result of mascara alone but God knows what glued to their eyelids at great expense. Women with pouts so pronounced they resemble baboon bums must name their filler of choice and those flicking locks that aren’t their own should credit the horse of origin.
And as for the impossible bodies that are not so much hourglass but a figure x, the poser should be compelled to explain the filters used that not only appear to remove several of their ribs but most internal organs too.
As for the captions that are meant to make these women appear spiritually deep – I’m talking “seize the day”, “happy vibes” and “love my life” – should be changed to what’s really being said. “I’m so much hotter than you”, “my ingrowns are killing me” and “damn I’m hungry”.
Look, I am all for female empowerment, body pride and making an easy buck. But I am also all about honesty and transparency, especially when you are “influencing” the young and vulnerable.
While the new rules are a start when it comes to paid product plugs, I fear being truly authentic and saying “my life is not as good as it appears in pictures”, “I fear not being thin” and “it costs me thousands of dollars to look like this and I am still not happy with my appearance” will be a long time coming – if ever.
Wendy Squires is a regular columnist.