What's the issue?
As the line between celebrity and influencer continues to blur, there does not seem to be more clarity around when an influencer is advertising, despite ASA guidance.
What's the development?
The ASA has published the results of a three week exercise monitoring 122 influencers and over 24,000 Instagram stories. It found nearly one in four stories were advertising but only 35% were clearly labelled and obviously identifiable as such. Issues included:
- Inconsistent disclosure across stories – each story must be disclosed as an ad.
- Inconsistent disclosure across stories, IGTV, reels and posts – a story corresponding to a post highlighted as advertising must also be clearly labelled.
- Visibility of ad labels – this was often inadequate. The labelling must be the first thing the consumer sees and must be clearly visible.
- Affiliate content – using #affiliate or #aff is not sufficient without upfront disclosure. #ad should also be used when promoting a discount code.
- Own-brand ads – influencers should not rely on bios or past posts to make it clear they are connected to a product.
Following the results of the monitoring exercise, the DCMS Committee has launched an inquiry into the power of online influencers. It will focus on hidden advertising and the frequent lack of transparency around promotion of products and services addressing the following areas:
- How would you define 'influencers' and ‘influencer culture'? Is this a new phenomenon?
- Has 'influencing' impacted popular culture? If so, how has society and/or culture changed because of this side of social media?
- Is it right that influencers are predominantly associated with advertising and consumerism, and if not, what other roles to influencers fulfil online?
- How are tech companies encouraging or disrupting the activities of influencing?
- How aware are users of the arrangements between influencers and advertisers? Should policymakers, tech companies and influencers and advertisers themselves do more to ensure these arrangements are transparent?
The Committee will consider whether regulation is necessary and, if so, what form it should take.
What does this mean for you?
The ASA has put some influencers and brands on notice that it will take enforcement action if future reviews continue to find problems. It will also work with the CMA in this area. This shows that the onus is not just on the influencer to comply but also on the brand to make sure any influencer they pay to advertise, uses appropriate labelling.
Read Simon Jupp's Download article for more on influencer advertising.