UAE influencers who make money promoting brands will need two licenses under new regulations – leading some to question whether it will be financially worthwhile.
Plans to professionalise and regulate the industry were announced in March by the National Media Council.
At the time, it was not immediately clear what would be required of influencers, but media lawyers have since received clarification on the new regulations.
Influencers must have a trade license before they can apply for the special e-media licence, according to the draft law. And it is that e-media license which will enable them to post content that advertises or endorses brands on social media.
“We have also confirmed that with the National Media Council. Note that this can be a freelancer visa, such as those provided by Dubai Creative Clusters Authority and twofour54,” said Fiona Robertson, a senior associate in the Technology, Media and Telecommunications practice with Al Tamimi & Co.
“A trade licence varies depending on the type, the authority and the location that is chosen. The e-media licence is set at Dh15,000.”
The new law is already in force, but under its terms, influencers, and other e-media businesses have three months to get an e-media licence, giving them until the first week of June to apply on the NMC's website.
Those who fail to comply with the new rules will have their social media accounts and related websites or blogs shut down, as well as being hit with fines of up to Dh5,000.
Influencers are people with thousands, or even millions, of followers on social media sites like Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Some of the most popular Dubai-based accounts include The Rich Kids of Dubai, Supercar Blondie and Mo Vlogs. They all have one thing in common - they have used that popularity to build a brand and can command rich endorsements from companies to promote their products.
According to Forbes, top fitness instructors and yogis earned between $3,000 and $25,00 per post. And YouTubers with millions of followers can receive up to $300,000 for a video partnership. But there are also many thousands of small-time restaurant reviewers and makeup artists who receive a free meal or products for their endorsements.
Last month members of the FNC called for closer observation of content shared on social media by influencers, particularly on apps like Instagram and Snapchat.
Helen Farmer, who runs the Instagram account The Mothership, which focuses on parenting and her own experience raising her children, already has a trade license.
In addition to her blog, she works as a wedding celebrant and conducts focus groups for businesses. She took out her trade license last year on anticipation of the market getting tighter.
“And some the agencies and brands I was working with were starting to request one. It may be the case that I need another one, which is not ideal.”
Mrs Farmer said she would have to think very carefully about whether it would be worth it.
“And I have just been fortunate over the last year that it has covered my blog and social media platforms as well. It’s a really tricky one. I will have to have a serious look at the numbers.”
Mizra Al Hosani, who runs the @sweetlifeinthesandpit Instagram account and a blog, said she would also have to seriously consider whether it would be worthwhile taking out two licenses.
“I’m a micro influencer. I do have a decent amount of collaborations but it’s not worth it to be taking out two licenses for. For one, for sure. But two? No,” said the 28 year-old American.
But it is clear that some influencers’ endorsements are a lot more lucrative.
“One influencer (much loved) Just quoted 75k for one FB post and one IG story....I think the vast majority have the funds.....” wrote one media professional on a discussion about the topic on Facebook.