For these Saudi influencers, social media stars need to be more responsible when plugging products
- 23 April 2019
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It’s no longer a secret of the trade: the majority of the world’s biggest YouTubers and Instagrammers rave about a product, experience or destination because they are paid to.
And sometimes it can be quite obvious when the product isn’t used by those individuals #IRL (that’s “in real life” to the rest of us).
Whether you’re for or against it, this is the reality of the industry, and social media marketing shows no signs of slowing down. Many territories have now implemented laws or regulations that make it mandatory for social media influencers to disclose when a post or video is sponsored or is an advertisement.
In the MENA region, these regulations are not standardised, but an increasing number of social media personalities are becoming more conscious of the ethical issues of what they post. Saudi YouTuber Bayan Al Sindi, who uploads videos regularly via her channel, Bayanola92, is one of a growing number of influencers who believe what they do can be “a responsibility” in itself: “It’s about your principles and ethics in life.”
The 26-year-old also believes that there should be more regulation in the industry: “A lot of influencers just promote a product without stating that it [is an advert]. One day, they will promote a fast food restaurant, and yet the next they will promote a dieting company. There is no honesty and integrity in doing that.”
She continued: “It’s okay to state when something is an ad. You don’t have to state your personal opinion; you can just stick to promoting the product. To me, it’s not about the money. As long as I’m changing someone’s life, that’s what motivates me to do more.”
Jeddah-based Bayan is one of the social media personalities attached to a new pan-Arab campaign called “Scents of Life” by British brand The Body Shop. The campaign’s collection, which features hijabi models on the official posters, consists of 15 cruelty-free, vegan fragrances, essences and spritzes that can be mixed and matched.
What attracted Bayan to the campaign was the values of the brand, as she had turned vegan around a year-and-a-half ago. “Especially after I became vegan, I understood what happens behind the scenes with many of the brands that I used to use,” she said. “They’re not cruelty-free, and they use animal products, and they don’t care about the environment in the first place. So I stopped promoting these brands and I went towards the ethical brands like the Body Shop. I was a part of the focus group giving opinions on the scents. I advised which ones would fit better in our culture, and which wouldn’t.”
She likens vegan cosmetics to halal cosmetics in that they share similar principles. But being a Muslim shouldn’t play into the ethics of advertising, Bayan told us. “Being a Muslim is, by default, to be a good person and to do what’s right in society, to yourself and your family. So even if you are not a Muslim, it’s about the person themselves, knowing what a good deed is. It’s about principles and ethics.”
Bayan worked alongside other influencers such as Wafa Ahmed (@artistic.wafa) and Amal Sultan (@terter_thinks) as well as Lina Al Serhan (@lina.alsarhann), who was present at the Dubai launch. Also in attendance was Saudi fashion designer and ambassador for The Body Shop, Tamara Al Gabbani. Having been in the public eye for years, the Dubai-based influencer agrees that advertising comes with a responsibility.
“You are responsible for every minute you are alive,” she said. “How you behave, how you speak, how you treat people. And how you handle conflict and problems. You’re the one who will live your life; you have to live your life on your terms.”
She added that she thinks about how a young female relative would feel about a prospective project before she takes it on. “I don’t want to ever do anything that won’t make a younger sister not proud of me, for example. It’s important to take on what you believe in; otherwise you won’t be happy with the money you receive.”
(Writing by Rachel McArthur; Editing by Seban Scaria firstname.lastname@example.org)
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