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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

UAE influencer agencies inundated with applications following new licence law

Individuals can be covered by a company's licence, according to a clarification on the new e-media licence 

Full-time food blogger Sana Chikhalia is currently registered with one agency only but has received numerous invitations to register from other companies. Antonie Robertson / The National
Full-time food blogger Sana Chikhalia is currently registered with one agency only but has received numerous invitations to register from other companies. Antonie Robertson / The National

Influencer agencies are being inundated with applications after it emerged that individuals can be covered under a company’s e-media licence – potentially saving them upwards of Dh30,000.

Plans to professionalise and regulate the industry were first announced in March by the National Media Council.

It was initially believed that individual influencers would need to hold two licences – a trade licence and a special e-media licence – costing upwards of Dh30,0000 in order to continue posting content that advertises or endorses brands on social media.

But the National Media Council has since clarified the law, stating that there are in fact three tiers of e-media licences available to influencers and agencies.

Tier one is an individual licence for independent influencers; tier two is a partnership licence for small groups; and tier three is a licence only available to official influencer agencies which will cover all influencers registered on their platform.

Each licence tier costs Dh15,000 and requires a trade licence to apply, according to experts.

A spokeswoman for NMC said reports about the number of applications that have been made are inaccurate, as they are still being counted.

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Vamp, a global content and influencer marketing platform with a presence in the UAE, was the first influencer agency to be granted a tier three e-media licence.

It has 450 UAE-based influencers registered on the platform, and it is currently working with each of them to ensure they are all NMC compliant.

And it has also received a flood of inquiries from influencers interested in joining.

“We have had quite a significant influx of Influencers that are not registered with Vamp who have reached out to learn more about the licensing arrangements,” said Karl Mapstone, business director for the Middle East at Vamp.

Many influencers were relieved to hear that there is an alternative option available if they are not able to afford the licence, he said.

“The feedback has been very positive from both influencers and brands,” said Mr Mapstone.

Brand Ripplr – a platform which claims to be the biggest in the UAE with 900 registered influencers – is in the final stages of applying for a tier three e-media licence to cover its members.

It has also fielded a large number of inquiries from potential new clients in recent days.

“We have had around 200 or 300 enquiries in just this past week [from new influencers],” said Tanaz Dizadji, founder and chief executive of Brand Ripplr.

“We are signing their contracts and updating their records with their stuff for the department, so that we can put them under the licence.”

Ms Dizadji said the platform will not necessarily receive any more business as a result of the new rules – but she welcomes them regardless.

“You need people to feel comfortable that when they are looking at social media, they know what they are looking at. We had no limitations before,” she said.

Things are now moving in the right direction – but it is not going to be easy, she said. Registering people takes time and many influencers are confused about the rules. One difference going forward will be that influencers can only register, and work with, one agency.

They can still work will directly with brands, but they must approve the content with the influencer agency they are registered with as it is responsible for it.

“A lot of influencers at the moment are signed up to every platform, so they are getting the same notifications and thinking, what should I do?” added Ms Dizadji.

Full-time food blogger Sana Chikhalia, 26, from India, who is behind Sana on Food is currently registered with one agency only. But she has received numerous invitations in recent days from other companies.

She was happy to hear that she could be covered by an agency’s licence as she was questioning whether it was worth it to apply for her own.

She has received six invitations from influencer agencies to register with them and now has to work out which one might be best for her.

"In the last few days I have got at least five to six people contacting and calling me and saying, these are our rules, terms and conditions. If you would like to join us, just let us know. You just need your Emirates ID copy and your passport copy," she added.

“I would rather join a company that has quality bloggers than quantity. After Ramadan is over I will sit down and go through everything. But there are quite a few at the moment.”