“The Guideline on Commercial Advertisement and Unfair Commercial Practices Conducted by Social Media Influencers” (“Guideline”), which was adopted by Advertisement Board (“Board”) as per its decision numbered 2021/2 and dated 4 May 2021, is preliminary and substantial legislation regarding social media influencer’s advertising activities. Nevertheless, the Board imposed several sanctions on the social media influencers prior to the Guideline on the grounds of the dispositions of Consumer Protection Law numbered 6502 (“Consumer Protection Law”) and the Regulation on Commercial Advertisement and Unfair Commercial Practices (“Regulation”). The latest four decisions of the Board, rendered in 2021, are also indicative for the implementation of the Guideline.
The Guideline stipulates that the social media influencers are required to use the hashtags #Collaboration, #Advertisement, etc. or include a declaratory caption for the commercial communications featured on video-sharing platforms (such as Youtube and Instagram TV), photo and message sharing platforms (such as Twitter), podcast platforms and other platforms on which the content is visible for a short time (such as Snapchat). Thus, the influencers should refrain from creating the impression of being solely a consumer, despite the presence of an agreement between the advertiser and the relation with the brand must be clearly disclosed.
In April, the Board ordered for the suspension of the relevant posts of Duygu Özaslan, a Turkish social media influencer with over 2 million followers, due to hidden advertising activities conducted by her. The renowned influencer advertised several well-known trademarks without mentioning the advertisement features through her Instagram social media account. Her stories with “@kleoco”, “@godivatürkiye” and “@miumiu” hashtags and reels posts on Instagram with the statements about “Elidor”, “Mercedes-Benz” and “L’Oréal” trademarks did not contain any disclosure regarding the collaboration between the influencer and the brand.
In a previous decision, in March 2021, the Board imposed a monetary fine of 104.781,00 TRY (approximately €10.000) on Pınar Altuğ Atacan, a social media influencer as described under the Guideline, due to food supplement advertisements conducted via her social media. In her Instagram posts, the famous actress stated the referred food supplement is nonaddictive and good for stress, anxiety and insomnia by virtue of its components. The Board emphasized that the referred statements are health claims made without required authorizations and the posts create a perception that the social media influencer has also personally used the food supplement. Thus the posts were deemed as deceptive and contrary to the hidden advertising ban and against the principles of testimonial advertising.
In March 2021, the Board reviewed the social media account of Merve Boluğur, another Turkish actress and held that the celebrity, as a social media influencer, advertised a food supplement with her personal comments, evaluations and advice. In any case, it is forbidden to advertise food supplements with health claims without authorization of the Turkish Medicinal Products and Medicinal Devices Agency. The claims that would lead the consumer to assume that the social media influencer personally used the product are deceptive and thus prohibited. The Board ordered to cease the said posts and imposed an administrative monetary fine corresponding to TRY 104.781 on the actress.
In an earlier decision, the Board detected that Berk Keklik, an influencer with over 2 million followers, directed his followers to an e-commerce platform by providing hyperlinks to the website. In his Instagram story, the social media influencer has compared various products’ prices and claimed that the prices are lower on the said platform, without any proper disclosure. The Board deemed posts as hidden advertising and ordered that the influencer cease the referred posts.
In each case, the Board imposed administrative sanctions to the social media influencers due to the violation of the hidden advertising ban regulated by the Regulation even while the Guideline was not enacted. The Guideline provided clear definitions of social media and social media influencer and stipulated the liability of the advertiser and the media organizations for social media influencer’s acts. Moreover, the statements to be made for each platform and their formal requirements will establish a uniform and fair commercial practice in the light of the Board’s decisions.
First published by GALA Blog, in 14.06.2021