Influencer wedding sponsored by brands sparks debate on disclosure

A recent fairy tale wedding organised by social media influencer Melissa Koh and husband James Chen has sparked a debate on brands getting involved with the personal events such as weddings.

According to the The Straits Times, guests at the wedding recounted shout outs for brands such as Tiffany & Co and Swarovski. Guests were also treated to wedding favours by brands such as TWG Tea. The wedding took place at the Ritz Carlton Millenia Singapore which got some social media mentions on Koh's Instagram, which reaches around 236,000 followers.

Not only did the move spark a conversation about red packet contributions, a Chinese tradition, it also raised questions if the couple should have made a full disclosure on the sponsorships prior to the wedding. Quoted on ST, one guest said he felt that she created an "ethical problem" by not disclosing the sponsorships to the guests.  Yet others at the wedding, felt there was no issue with it.

In a conversation with Marketing, Tan Sze Wee, chairman of ASAS, said that currently, the guidelines of the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice (SCAP) said only apply to marketing communication materials which are produced for and about an event. This is regardless of who organises or sponsors it.

As such, although brand mentions made during the physical event are outside the scope of the SCAP, social media posts mentioning brand involvement in the wedding are subjected to the social media regulations of the SCAP.  Separately, under the Income Tax Act, Tan added that all monetary and non-monetary payments and benefits-in-kind are taxable.

Before embarking on collaborations with influencers for events such as weddings, brands should also comply with the guidelines on the full disclosure of the commercial relationship between sponsor and influencer. The same also applies when an influencer promotes an event, Tan explained.

“The brands and influencers should ensure that the marketing communications and content that arise from their working relationship are in accordance with SCAP and are legal, decent, honest and truthful,” Tan said.

Also weighing in on the issue was Edwin Yeo, general manager of SPRG Singapore. Yeo was of the view that a wedding is a private affair and there is no clear line on the matter. He added that this is not a new phenomenon, but at the end of the day, it boils down to how the brands view the sponsorship and what their objectives are.

"Are they looking at it as a marketing opportunity? Or was it a result of existing favourable relationships with said influencer and couple?” Yeo explained.Depending on the objective, the disclosure should be made.

From a brand perspective, association with the influencer or celebrity is part of the equation. Hence, when it comes to sponsorships over events such as weddings, brands should take similar measures like how they do when it comes to selecting the right influencer for the brand.

Be it weddings, commercials or marketing campaigns, you always need to find the right fit when it comes to influencers. Consider if he or she resonate with the brand voice and values.