ASA influencer ruling on Stephanie Davis Instagram post

I can’t help feeling rather sorry for Stephanie Davis. It has to be said the former Hollyoaks actress is no stranger to problematic high-profile relationships (ref Celebrity Big Brother 2016 etc) and now the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has put her relationship with a supplements company in the spotlight.

With 436k Twitter followers and a combined following of well over 850k for her two Instagram accounts, Stephanie is an influencer of some sway and in August last year she posted on Instagram, saying “Just wanted to let you all know about @convitsuk – a great daily vitamin & mineral company I have just started using… Get your exclusive 50% off online today with code STEPH50.”

This post was the subject of a complaint to the ASA, which investigated and decided that it was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication and had therefore breached the CAP Code, which, as I’m sure you know, regulates promotional marketing activity in the UK.

Now, I’m certainly not arguing with the ASA and I completely agree that the post did breach the CAP Code. That’s because it’s obvious to me that Stephanie must have had some kind of relationship with Convits and my assumption is that it was a business relationship whereby she was either paid a straightforward fee to promote the company’s products or she received some sort of payment in kind.

I mean, I’m not going to encourage you to use the code SARAH50 to get 50% off any pack of biscuits at my corner shop unless I have a pre-existing relationship with them and have agreed the discount in advance. I’m also not going to do that unless there’s something in it for me, even if it’s only a few free custard creams.

Anyway, I’m not an impressionable teenager, I work in the promotions industry and I like to think that my critical faculties are pretty good, so when I read Stephanie’s post I understood there was an implied business relationship between her and the supplements company, but what’s interesting is that the ASA ruling emphasises that implied isn’t good enough and the relationship must be made explicit – Steph didn’t disclose – and indeed the post was later amended to include the marker #Ad.

Of course, Stephanie isn’t the first influencer to fall foul of the ASA for failing to disclose a commercial relationship (see Geordie Shore’s Marnie Simpson for an exemplar on what not to do), but Instagram is at least going some way towards addressing this issue by gradually extending the availability of the Instagram Branded Content Tool. Among other features, this enables the phrase ‘Paid Partnership’ to appear at the top of a post. However, I’d bet that those custard creams that this won’t be the last time the ASA upholds a complaint about influencer disclosures.

Prizeology works with brands and influencers, advising on and monitoring paid-for content, including ensuring the right disclosures are made. Should this be an area where we can be of service, do get in touch.

Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist, and a SCAMbassador for National Trading Standards Scams Team.

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