A survey by UAE-based digital marketing consultancy firm Bukhash Brothers found that 84% of influencers, of which 63% are female, fail to “disclose in a clear manner any brand integrations or branded content,” according to a report by Gulf News.
Meanwhile, 44% of influencers at least use the “paid partnership” tag in sponsored posts. This means very little, however, as 61% of the respondents to the survey admitted to signing exclusive contracts with a brand.
This is amplified further by the fact that nearly a quarter of influencers that participated in the Bukhash Brothers survey claimed that Instagram represented their main source of income, providing them with up to $2,500 per sponsored post.
In addition to this, 29% of influencers in the UAE have no problems paying for followers and fake engagement, a practice that Instagram has been cracking down on for years.
“Transparency is critical. It’s about respecting your audience and not trying to fool the consumer. The survey results were surprising, but we predict that the transparency numbers will level out as followers are getting savvier and influencers are getting more serious about fostering long-term relationships. Additionally, the regulations by the National Media Council and licensing system for UAE-based influencers has already had an impact towards streamlining the industry into international best practice and protocols,” said Anas Bukhash, founder and managing director of Bukhash Brothers.
Both the USA and the European Union have laws that do not permit people to make sponsored content on the internet without revealing its nature. The US Federal Trade Commission even released an endorsement guide to help individuals and businesses better understand how they can be as transparent about sponsorships as possible.
Currently, according to Bukhash, the UAE is establishing the groundwork it needs to get a similar system in place. There is no incentive for Instagram to intervene on behalf of these agencies as its status as a platform protects it from most of the consequences of its influencers’ lack of sponsorship disclosure.
Nonetheless, both Instagram and its parent company Facebook have policies in place to remove the most egregious deceptive marketing schemes. The goal of making sponsorships more transparent ultimately has to come from the legal system of each influencer’s country.