Several advertising and marketing agencies in the UAE are now ensuring that the influencers they work with are licensed. This follows Abu Dhabi's announcement that it will penalize those conducting social media campaigns without the required permits. Industry experts believe this indicates that the influencer marketing industry is transitioning from an unregulated hobby to a formally recognized and well-regulated form of advertising.

Abeer Faisal, a Marketing Specialist at Omorfia Group, emphasized the importance of stringent license checks for their social media influencers. "The influencer industry is substantial, and many of our campaigns are multimillion-dollar ventures," she explained. "For such high-stakes campaigns, influencers can earn over Dh500,000, making licenses crucial for tracking purposes. Each permit includes a Tax Registration Number (TRN), which is vital for billing. With large-scale shoots, it's imperative that all licenses are in order for proper tracking and accounting."

Starting July 1, the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED) will impose fines of up to Dh10,000 on social media influencers and advertising service providers without valid licenses. Individual licenses cost Dh1,250, while company licenses are Dh5,000. Since this announcement, there has been a steady increase in inquiries for these permits, according to industry experts.

Firose Khan, an operation manager at Arabian Business Centre, noted a daily increase in calls about license details and costs. "The introduction of penalties in Abu Dhabi has certainly encouraged compliance with the law," he said. While Dubai has not yet introduced penalties, they strongly advise clients to obtain an e-trader license for influencer campaigns.

Influencers registered in other emirates can also obtain a campaign-specific permit in Abu Dhabi for Dh50, which can be applied for through the Tamm website. Although penalties are not currently enforced in other emirates, industry experts speculate that the market is moving towards greater organization.

Noushad Hassan from Alhind Business Centre reported a significant increase in demand for influencer licenses since January. "The appetite for these licenses has been exceptionally high in 2024," he noted. Abeer attributes this growth to the exponential expansion of the influencer marketing industry in the UAE, where traditional marketing is increasingly being replaced by social media campaigns.

Early market indicators suggested the introduction of penalties. "There was talk among companies and influencers about potential penalties," said Noushad. "While currently only enforced in Abu Dhabi, all parties are preparing for similar regulations across all emirates."

Indian beatboxer Ardhra Sajan, an influencer who frequently travels to the UAE for campaigns, decided to obtain a license during her recent visit to Dubai. "I want to be recognized as a serious influencer, which is why I invested in a license," she stated.