IZEA hopes to alter the landscape of paid social with a proposed #AD emoji. The emoji would make it much easier for consumers to spot advertisements as they scroll and swipe through their feeds.
Influencer marketing is changing the way that brands connect with consumers by placing products in the hands of entertainers, athletes, industry leaders and other influential members of society. In 2015, 84% of marketers expected to use some form of influencer marketing in their campaigns, with 81% touting it as an effective way to engage audiences. As paid social media campaigns become more prevalent, the FTC is cracking down on transparency to ensure that consumers can easily tell whether or not content is sponsored.
IZEA, a marketplace that connects brands with influential content creators, has proposed a solution to ad transparency: a hashtag emoji that would clearly highlight social posts as paid advertisements. Petitioning The Unicode Consortium, a non-profit organization dedicated to updating and maintaining the Unicode Standard, IZEA’s proposal includes four emoji styles that would stand out alongside a paid post’s text.
As a qualification for consideration, The Unicode Consortium examines usage frequency for the proposed term or phrase. IZEA found that #ad greatly outnumbered instances of other popular tags such as #selfie, underscoring the term’s prominence on social media. The number of mentions for #ad on Twitter grew nearly 52% between August 2015 and August 2016, according to Gnip.
Beyond bringing brand transparency to such a frequently tweeted term, the proposed emoji would also set a standard for content creators and marketers who engage influencers on various platforms. Ted Murphy, Chairman and CEO of IZEA, said,
“Every social platform is different and there isn’t a common method for content creators to disclose that a piece of content is sponsored by a brand. Emoji use is widespread throughout social media and messaging platforms and could easily be implemented as a universal disclosure standard if The Unicode Consortium accepts our petition.”
Though the FTC updates and revises its standards for disclosure of sponsored ads, IZEA’s 2015 State of Sponsored Social revealed that a mere 31% of marketers are aware of and understand these disclosed FTC guidelines. IZEA is working with the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) in the United States and the Advertising Standards Council (ASC) in Canada to streamline the disclosure process in both countries. Murphy says,
“A visual indicator would provide a clear representation of sponsored content on all social platforms and could be a universal means of disclosure not just in the U.S. and Canada, but in all countries around the world. We could simplify ethical disclosure for marketers and influencers – if you have been compensated, use the #AD emoji.”
IZEA’s petition has been submitted to The Unicode Consortium and the emoji will be supported on platforms in about two years if the proposal is accepted.