Influencer Advertisement: An Update From the ASA

Instagram influencers have revolutionised the world of advertisement, with many brands building their customer basis solely through influencer marketing.With this new world of advertisement comes a new set of rules that influencers must follow to make sure they stay out of trouble.

Organisations such as the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) help influencers understand what they can and cannot do when it comes to advertising on their social media page. To understand the problems with incorrect influencer advertisement, check out our post on The Dangers of Influencer Marketing and How to Avoid Them.

Both brands and influencers are responsible for making consumers aware of sponsored content. So, what can you do as an influencer to make sure your content follows the guidelines?

Understanding what counts as an ad

The most well recognised type of advertisement is paid-for space. This refers to when a brand pays for an advert to appear in the sponsored section of a social media platform. This is clearly identified as an advertisement by most consumers. However, when it comes to personal product advertisement and affiliate marketing the lines become more blurred.

Own advertising refers to posts regarding your own products or services and counts as advertising, even if it’s done on your own personal channels. Prize draws or giveaways are also classed as advertisement and are known as ‘promotional marketing’ where you would be the ‘promoter’.

Affiliate marketing is where many influencers tend to fall into issues with the ASA. Due to the varying nature of affiliate marketing it can become pretty unclear about how things should be labelled or how transparent the influencer has to be. Another reason why affiliate marketing advertisement sparks issues is because of the doubts surrounding what may or may not count as ‘payment’ and ‘control’ for the advertorial content.

If a brand you are working with has ‘paid’ you in some way (can be freebies) AND has had some form of editorial ‘control’ over the content it will qualify as an advert under the CAP code. However, even if no ‘control’ has been enforced consumer protection legislation is still enforced by the CMA.

What counts as ‘payment’ and ‘control’?

Payment for content creation doesn’t necessarily have to be in the form of money. You could be paid to be an ambassador, or given products, gifts, services, trips, hotel stays etc. for free. This all qualifies as ‘payment’.

In terms of ‘control’, if as an influencer you were not completely free to do and say whatever you wanted there is ‘control’ by the brand. The brand may exert ‘control’ in various ways, for example they might tell you what you have to say and to use particular hashtags. They could also say what should be in the image, specify the type of content they want you to create and require you to post a specific number of times at specified dates and times. The ‘control’ may even be as simple as wanting to check/approve the content before it’s posted and ask for certain changes.

What happens if there was ‘payment’ but no ‘control’?

In the occasion where a brand gave you complete autonomy over the content you created and you have no affiliate arrangement but have still issued ‘payment’, you are required to disclose the form of ‘payment’ that has been given to the consumer.

How do I make it clear that it’s an ad?

Even though you may know all of the above, none of it is useful unless you know how to correctly show that your post is an ad. The ASA recommends that you include a prominent label such as Ad/Advert/Advertisement at the beginning of the post description. It is not recommended to use labels such as spon/sponsorship, ‘in association with’ or just @ mentioning the brand as these may be misleading or consumers may not notice them.

So now that you’re up to date with all the latest advertisement rules, you can go away and advertise to your heart’s content!

To learn some top tips on how to advertise like a pro check out or blog post on How to Create the Perfect Instagram Advertisement.

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