Bruno Le Maire, it seems, would also like to be an influencer – or, as they say in his native language, an “influenceur”. He strolls to light elevator music in one on Sundays video posted on Twitter into his official office with leather chairs, casually takes a sip before taking a seat in front of the French and European flags. It can then be a bit official with one of the top political influencers, pardon me, with the French Minister for Economic Affairs. Like his role models trying to interact, he speaks directly into the camera: “I need you.”
Together with his followers, sorry, the French people, Le Maire wants to regulate the work of the 150,000 influencers in the neighboring country more closely. Because just like in this country, influencers also play a dual role in the lives of many people in France: On the one hand, they give practical tips via social networks on how to use the leftover raclette cheese from the New Year’s Eve party, which yoga exercise helps against neck pain or where to go next journey should go. On the other hand, some of them celebrate certain brands, products and services so loudly in their posts that you could just switch to the teleshopping channel. In the best case, this is just annoying, in the worst case, it is surreptitious advertising that can influence young followers in particular.
Where does the “heart’s recommendation” end, where does advertising begin?
In Germany, too, various courts have in recent years dealt with the question of where, as influencers like to say, a “real recommendation from the heart” ends and where advertising begins. The Federal Court of Justice ruled in 2021: If an influencer like Cathy Hummels shares a photo of a stuffed animal with a button in her ear and a link to the manufacturer, but does not receive any money for it, it is not surreptitious advertising. If she is paid for it, she must indicate this. Similar rules also sees one last year law that has come into forcecolloquially called the Influencer Act.
The French Minister for Economic Affairs is now also pushing for legislation that is as clear as possible. Since millions of people trust the influencers’ recommendations, they have “a special responsibility,” says Le Maire. Before the impression could arise that he is now giving the strict political uncle, the minister makes it clear: “The vast majority obviously respects the rules.” But some tried to mislead the public, or “they forget to say they were paid to recommend a product, website or trip”. In the future, Le Maire wants to “accompany” forgetful influencers in their responsibility, punish fraudulent colleagues – and better protect consumers.
He relies on the community: The French can open until January 31st a dedicated website give their opinion on the government’s proposals. It is also about the identification of paid and unpaid advertising. Similar to Instagram or Youtube, Le Maire has set up a comment column for feedback from citizens. Apparently he is serious about his second career.