$1 billion (Dh3.67 billion) was wiped off the value of the app Snap Inc due to Rihanna’s Instagram Stories post. Image Credit: EPA

Dubai: The skinny starlet declaring the joy of guzzling sugary drinks or the athlete vouching for the guaranteed growth from consuming malted drinks — we’ve seen the ads.

Endorsements and celebrities peddling products have been around for a long time.

Tell followers that it is an #Ad. Very simple.

Now ads have moved on to telling human interest stories and the job of advertising products has become the ambit of a rather special group of humans called ‘influencers’.

They literally mean what they’re called. But, this is where it gets a bit tricky.

On a television commercial, there were clear ad breaks, the point you went to make a quick sandwich or sneak a piece of cake. But, on social media platforms, there is no such clear boundary. It is your good friend recommending a new find, a tip or discovery. Because that’s what influencers do — they chat, talk to complete strangers with handles like @googoobunny with complete conviction. There is no judgement, just acceptance.

107 million
followers for Kylie Jenner

Sounds almost like a ‘best friend’ or BF. Now, if you discover that the BF was actually telling you stuff that they had been paid to say, won’t you feel betrayed?

This brings us to the rather fractious question of liability.

If someone you trust recommends something without being transparent about the pros and cons, and it all goes haywire for you, doesn’t that ‘BF’ bear some liability for this breach of trust?

There is nothing like a free lunch. So, if an influencer wants people to listen to what he or she has to say, buy what they recommend, especially as they’re being paid for it — in money or kind — the least they can do is be transparent. Tell followers that it is an #Ad. Very simple.

It doesn’t stop there, governments need to hold ‘influencers’ a lot more accountable, especially for shared liability — transparency is fundamental to any relationship we build because without trust, there is only chaos.