Over the past couple of weeks, there has been much confusion about changes to the rules governing how influencers can share and advertise therapeutic goods.
The changes happened back in January 2022, but a recent article prompted a wave of hysteria among influencers, media, the marcomms industry and community. Many were misled to believe it meant the whole health and wellness category was now banned from using influencers – but that is fake news!
We’ve put together a quick summary of what the changes mean, how brands can continue to work with influencers and the implications for the wider industry.
What is the TGA Code?
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is responsible for regulating therapeutic goods including prescription medicines, vaccines, sunscreens, vitamins and minerals, medical devices, blood and blood products in Australia. Not all products in these categories are TGA-listed, but those that are must comply with the TGA’s rules and regulations.
On 3 December 2021 (that’s right – this isn’t new news!), the TGA announced that a new Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (the Code) would come into effect on 1 January 2022.
According to the TGA, “Advertisers have until 30 June 2022 to transition from the current Code to the 2021 Code. During this 6 month transition period advertisers may apply either the current Code or the 2021 Code.”
Those who work closely with TGA-listed products have been aware of the changes in the new Code, and were recalibrating their 2022 strategies and campaigns to ensure compliance. But that recent story about the changes sparked confusion and got many talking about what it means for influencer marketing.
What are the changes to the Code?
There are six key changes to the 2021 Code (as listed by the TGA). But the big one is the change in the use of endorsements vs testimonials.
The change clarifies that paid or incentivised testimonials cannot be included in advertisements, including from anyone engaged in the production, marketing or supply of the goods, as well as testimonials from influencers.
Instead, influencers are permitted to include only ‘endorsements’ of TGA-listed products, with no connection to personal use and experience, and using only TGA-approved claims.
What are the implications for influencers, marketers and brands?
TGA-listed products can no longer use influencers in the same way as they have in the past. Previously, social feeds have been flooded with influencers talking about their personal experiences with a therapeutic good.
Influencer campaigns for TGA-listed products can continue, but they must follow strict guidelines to ensure content is compliant with the new Code and other regulations.
- Never talk about personal experience with a TGA-listed product if they are paid or incentivised to do so.
- Remove all historical ‘testimonials’ of TGA-listed products from social feeds and/or blogs.
- Only include ‘endorsements’ of TGA-listed products, using only TGA-approved claims.
Marketers and brands must:
- Remove any historical ‘testimonials’ of TGA-listed products that they’ve shared, boosted or advertised in their social feeds, digital marketing or advertising campaigns.
- Ensure any influencer activity is clear in its compliance with the new Code, as the TGA will likely consider anything ‘grey’ to be a breach.
- Ensure clear communication with influencers regarding their shared obligations to comply with the Code in all posts and content.
How will these changes impact communications strategies for TGA-listed products?
In terms of a bigger picture, a much larger question is being raised. In an environment where both consumers and regulatory bodies will be closely watching, how will these changes impact the communications strategies for TGA-listed products?
In recent years, many brands in this space, both large and small, have heavily relied on influencers sharing their authentic experiences of the product with their community.
At the heart of great influencer marketing is a genuine connection between an influencer, their audience and the subject of their content. So, how will the changes impact strategies in the longer term?
- Can you still achieve authenticity and connection in influencer marketing of TGA-listed products if the personal experience is removed? Influencer selection and the fit between the brand/product and the audience will be critical to success.
- In today’s ultra-connected digital world, what do these Australian regulations mean for global products and influencers? The TGA only regulates the Australian market, so it is unclear how global products and content which ultimately have reach in Australia
(intentionally or not) will be viewed.
- What about brands which are related to health, but are not classified as ‘therapeutic goods’? These products can still utilise testimonials, as long as content is compliant with other (non-TGA) rules and regulations; inevitably creating confusion with Australians. Brands in certain instances might even choose to reduce the claims they can make about a new product, and go down the path of not listing their product with the TGA as a therapeutic product.
Time will tell how these play out, as brands and influencers navigate the changes.
IMPACT has worked with TGA-listed products and influencers for much of the last decade, and we understand the intricacies of the Code and the nuances of the wider health and wellness industry. If you’d like to chat about how you can continue to utilise influencers as part of your marketing mix for therapeutic or health-related products, get in touch.