On 8 October 2018, the Belgian Advertising Council (Raad voor de Reclame/Conseil de la Publicité) published Recommendations for Online Influencers (Aanbevelingen van de Raad voor de Reclame inzake online influencers/Recommandations du Conseil de la Publicité en matière d'influenceurs en ligne - the "Recommendations"). The Recommendations should enhance consumer protection by ensuring that consumers always know whether a post on social media constitutes an opinion or a form of publicity. They also increase legal certainty for both influencers and advertisers.
However, the Recommendations only apply when two conditions are satisfied. First, the online influencer must receive compensation and, second, the advertiser must have significant control over the communication. If, for example, an online influencer receives a product for free and is not bound by contract to give it a positive review, then the communication does not constitute social media marketing.
The Recommendations lay out two ground rules.
First, any commercial communication should be clearly identifiable as such. Hence, online influencers should clarify their relationship with the brand, by using disclaimers such as "advertising", "sponsoring", "promotion", "sponsored by" or "in collaboration with". Alternatively, they may use such hashtags as: "#spon", "#pub", "#prom", "#ad" or "#sample". In addition, online influencers should adapt the language of the disclaimer to their followers. Finally, those words should not be hidden to the average consumer who should be able to see them upon a...