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Influencers banned from paid advertising of skincare and other health products

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but no longer in the pocket of the influencer, it seems. Australia’s medicine regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has updated their Advertising Code to say that influencers can no longer advertise therapeutic goods. “Advertising of therapeutic goods requires a higher ethical standard than may apply for advertising of ordinary consumer goods,” the TGA has announced, “because consumers rely on therapeutic goods for their health”.

While it’s currently discouraged by the TGA, as of July 1st 2022 influencers will be outright banned from advertising these products or being incentivised to promote them. This means that not only are influencers banned from receiving payment to promote therapeutic goods (goodbye, sponsored posts), but they are also excluded from receiving PR packs in exchange for posts as well. Basically, if an influencer is involved with “the production, sale, supply or marketing of the goods”, they are unable to make a post about it on social media - even if they genuinely love it!

Which products are affected?

While we all can probably imagine that spruiking medicine and pacemakers are off the table, the label “therapeutic goods” actually covers a wide range of skin, health and beauty products you may not have realised. Products affected by the new TGA Advertising Code include:

- sunscreens

- protein powder

- vitamins

- supplements

- skincare

- skin lightening products 

For a more comprehensive guide, check out the TGA website here.

What does this mean for influencers?

Despite this announcement, influencers may still be approached by businesses who want to engage their services to promote their therapeutic goods. There are always a couple bad eggs in the bunch, right? This will mean that the company or agency in question either hasn’t done their due diligence around the new Advertising Code or is willfully ignoring it - either way, be sure to steer clear! The TGA has also said that this new code will apply retroactively to old posts, so if content creators have engaged in campaigns for therapeutic goods previously, they will have until July 1st to take them down.

So does this mean you can’t post about therapeutic goods at all? Not exactly - anyone is still allowed to share reviews, opinions, testimonials and just general love for a therapeutic product or brand, so long as they haven’t accepted payment or any other incentives for the post.

What does this mean for my small business?

Obviously, a huge part of the creator economy relies on sponsored posts and brand deals with companies selling therapeutic goods, so this has large potential ramifications for Australian influencers. However, it’s not only the influencers who are losing out. When asked for comment, content creator Emma Mugica said, "Influencer marketing is the number one strategy for most companies. By pulling that away from them, not only are the influencers losing out on their job, but the companies are also losing out on a lot of business”.

First of all, it’s important to check if you’ll be affected. Check if your business or products fall under the TGA’s classification of a therapeutic good here. Keep in mind that there can often be a grey area with cosmetics; for instance, if you are a makeup brand you may think you are exempt from this new code. However, if you’re selling a foundation that markets itself as having certain benefits like protecting the skin from pollution or UV damage, the new code will apply to you. So what happens if you’re affected?

This news will cause an undoubted shake-up in the advertising space, and if you currently engage in influencer marketing it may be wise to pull back and re-strategise your marketing efforts. While influencer marketing can be powerful when done right, it certainly isn’t the only effective avenue for getting your product out there in front of potential audiences - sometimes going back to the drawing board, looking at your other options and considering a new tactical move can reinvigorate your brand and put you in an even better position.

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