New social media laws: UAE agencies work with licensed influencers to avoid hefty fines

New social media laws: UAE agencies work with licensed influencers to avoid hefty fines

Although penalties are not in place in emirates other than Abu Dhabi, there have been speculations that the market is moving towards a more well-organised direction.

Several advertising and marketing agencies in the UAE are now ensuring that the influencers they work with are licensed. This comes as Abu Dhabi announced that it will penalise those who conduct social media campaigns without the required permits.

Industry experts say that this is an indication that the influencer marketing industry is moving from a haphazard hobby industry to a well-regulated, formally recognised form of advertisement.

Abeer Faisal, Marketing Specialist at Omorfia Group, said they do stringent checks on the licences of their social media stars.

“The influencer industry is very big and very often, some of the campaigns we do are multimillion dollar ones,” she said. “For such campaigns, the influencer earns in excess of Dh500,000. So, the licence become extremely important for tracking purpose. Every permit has the Tax Registration Number (TRN), which is essential when billing. With such big budget shoots, it is extremely important that all licences are in place so that everything can be tracked and accounted for.”

Abeer Faisal

Starting July 1, Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED) will impose fines of up to Dh10,000 on social media influencers and establishments engaged in providing advertising services if they do not have a valid licence. The licence fee for individuals is Dh1,250 and for companies it is Dh5,000.

Since this announcement, enquiries for such permits have increased steadily, according to experts.

“Every day I am receiving at least five calls enquiring about the licence and its costs,” said Firose Khan, operation manager at Arabian Business Centre. “The move by Abu Dhabi to introduce penalties has definitely encouraged people to conduct their social media campaigns according to the law. Callers usually enquire about the costs of these permits in Abu Dhabi and they also ask about whether such penalties have been introduced in Dubai. Although there are no penalties in Dubai yet, we are strongly advising our clients to take an e-trader licence to carry out their influencer campaigns.”

Firose Khan

Currently, it is also possible for influencers registered in other emirates to get a licence to do a campaign in Abu Dhabi. According to the ADDED call centre, they can apply for a permit per campaign for Dh50. This can be applied through the Tamm website.

Exceptional demand

Although such penalties are not in place in other emirates, there have been speculations that the market is moving towards a more well-organised direction, say industry experts.

“We had been seeing an increase in demand since January this year,” said Noushad Hassan, from Alhind Business Centre. “Ever since Dubai introduced influencer licences in 2018, the demand for them have been increasing. However, this year the appetite has been exceptionally high. I would say 2024 is the year when my company has issued the highest number of influencer licences during our operations in the country.”

Noushad Hassan

According to Abeer, one of the reason for this has been that the influencer marketing industry has grown exponentially. “This market has grown a lot in the UAE,” she said. “Many top brands, as well as those like us in the marketing industry, rely and depend on influencers to get brand names noticed. Traditional marketing methods are giving way to social media campaigns because people very diligently follow what their favourite influencers are doing, using and promoting

Early indicators

Noushad said there were early indicators in the market that some sort of penalties would be introduced. “There was some chatter among companies and influencers that penalties were in the works,” he said. “Although these have only been introduced in Abu Dhabi currently, all concerned parties are taking this as a sign that similar rules may soon come up in all emirates. So, everyone who wants to run influencer campaigns are ensuring that they have the necessary permits.”

One such person who is not taking any chance is Indian beatboxer Ardhra Sajan. Even though she is a resident of India, the influencer often travels to the UAE for campaigns. “Ever since I became an influencer, I have often been invited to do advertisements for UAE-based companies and products,” she said.

“So this year when I came to Dubai, I decided to get a licence to legally do campaigns. I think this licence will be a main factor in differentiating hobby influencers from full-time content creators. I want to be seen as an influencer who takes her craft seriously and that is why I decided to invest in a licence,” she added.

Summary of Article by: Nasreen Abdulla, the Khaleej Times

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