A new law has recognized the power of the most potent weapon of influencers: short videos and the rest of their audiovisual content. The legal text ensures that they have the same ability as major media outlets, and the same audience, to convey values, create identities, and even for higher purposes. Literally quoting, it says they can “preserve cultural and linguistic diversity in a society, convey an egalitarian, non-discriminatory, non-sexist, and non-stereotypical image of women and men, and ultimately educate and train their members.” And with great power comes great responsibility, but are lawmakers sure they have watched the same type of videos as the rest of mortals to create their new influencer law?

Well, that has an answer: they started by watching those of gamers. They were the first ones that the CNMV, National Securities Market Commission, focused on in a project where its employees watched 420 hours of influencer content about video games and eSports. Their chosen channels were YouTube, TikTok, Instagram TV, and Twitch. And their conclusions were that more than half of the analyzed videos included content that violated regulations on child protection and commercial communications. In other words, they did not adapt the content to the children and teenagers they were aimed at, and when they made advertisements, they did not label them as such. While the rest of the media, obliged by the Audiovisual Communication Law, did so, and that is unfair competition, which is one of the things that the CNMV pursues and tries to prevent. In addition to being deceitful.

And that’s how we’ve arrived at this new law, which is not so important for regulating influencers but because it reminds us of the importance of advertising being done by professionals in the field. Let’s take a look back to check it out, back to the late eighties, when the Spanish advertising law was made, then designed for television, radio, newspapers, and outdoor advertising. Basically, it guaranteed Spanish consumers that advertising would not deceive them, nor would it be aimed at audiences unable to distinguish its promises from reality. It was the golden age of Spanish advertising.

For over a decade, we became a reference for the most creative advertising in the world. Awards rained down on us. We were imitated. We matched the level of the great American or British advertisements, sweeping through festivals and awards. Like Cannes, which has its version of advertising, just as important for its segment as the film festival is for its. Our advertising even shaped society a bit: against AIDS, the legendary campaign of “Póntelo, pónselo” (“Put it on, put it on”), and the family dinners at the end of the year with “Vuelve a casa por Navidad” (“Come home for Christmas”), which was also a slogan. Advertising had become completely professionalized and had a legal framework. Then the internet changed the rules of the game, the talent of professionals adapted, and then… the influencers arrived.

Content creators are entertainment professionals, not advertising professionals. And it’s clear that their large audience has piqued the interest of brands. They are an easy way to reach the public, but also a danger to reputation when there is no professional intermediary between the influencer and the brand. That’s what alerted the CNMV and what has ultimately led to the creation of a law for them, to prevent greater harm.

We have such a recent example that is currently trending as a hashtag from a well-known French cosmetics chain. A tremendous communication error that would not have happened if advertising professionals had mediated between the influencers and the brand. Viral videos in Spain show girls under 12 years old going to their stores to ask for creams with Retinol A, lip volumizers, or eyelash serums. Sales assistants have confirmed this to investigative journalists in the stores themselves. And pediatricians and child psychologists have raised the alarm. Because those fantastic beauty resources for adult skin can not only cause damage to children’s skin, they also pose the danger of inducing cosmeticorexia, which is like the obsession of anorexia not to eat, but in this case, not to make up. In minors. And all of this, because of the beauty advice from influencers that are undoubtedly fantastic for adult audiences, but not suitable as content for a younger audience at any moment. And who do the media and consumers blame? The chain, not the content creators.

That’s why the so-called influencer law, which actually means applying the Audiovisual Communication Law to these creators, sets limits on their content, given the enormous influence they wield with it. In relation to the cosmetics example, the law seeks to limit minors from receiving messages about body worship; transmitting erroneous standards of self-perception – that famous idea that if you don’t have a normative body, you are not beautiful; and also proposing cosmetic surgeries or treatments. In addition to that, and for any advertising content, influencers cannot encourage minors to buy products or encourage their parents to do so. Nor can they promote unhealthy foods such as processed and ultra-processed foods, tobacco, or vaping products. Nor can they promote medical products, alcohol, or gambling games. And certainly not gambling games, which must be advertised at very limited times and only to an adult audience.

Will it be achieved in such a difficult-to-control market as the internet? The substantial amount of fines for violating these rules may achieve it, up to 600,000 euros in the most serious cases, and 10,000 in the mildest ones. It’s also not very clear what happens with influencers who earn less than half a million euros annually or have fewer than a million followers. Because these fall outside the influencers registry, where everyone must be, alongside traditional media. At the time of finishing this article, none appeared in the registry, neither as individuals nor as the companies that have created the most well-known ones. But they will appear soon when the deadline given by the law to register expires. And it doesn’t matter if they live or work in Andorra or elsewhere, those rules affect anyone who creates content aimed at the Spanish audience.

Any advertising professional would have explained all this before the law existed, adding that influencers are now an important resource for advertising and commercial strategies as long as they are used properly. That is, as long as there is a specialized agency to direct and make each action or sponsorship totally effective without creating adverse side effects, such as the one mentioned in cosmetics. What’s viral can also be harmful.