The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has just launched a dedicated web page where it is naming and shaming influencers who have persistently failed to disclose when their Instagram posts are ads. This is a bold move from the ASA, but it’s one I applaud.
At the time of writing, there are four names on the page: Chloe Ferry (Geordie Shore, Celebrity Big Brother), Chloe Khan (X Factor reject, Playboy cover star), Jodie Marsh (TV personality, bodybuilder) and Lucy Mecklenburgh (Towie).
The ASA’s compliance team got in touch with each of them and asked them to provide an assurance that they would give their advertising posts clear #ad labels. The quartet either failed to give that assurance or gave it but then subsequently went back on it.
The two Chloes, Jodie and Lucy will be listed on the non-compliant social media influencers webpage for three months, during which time they will be subject to enhanced monitoring and spot checks. If other influencers repeatedly break the rules, their names will be added to the list.
Non-compliance is high
Earlier this year, the ASA published its Influencer Monitoring Report, in which it analysed ad disclosure on Instagram by looking at 122 UK-based influencer accounts. I certainly wasn’t surprised to learn that influencers continue to ignore the ASA’s rules – I see an example every time I open Instagram – but I have to confess I was slightly surprised to find out that they’re flagrantly flouting the rules 65% of the time. It’s shocking really.
Back in 2018, Prizeology carried out some research into consumer attitudes towards social media marketing (if you’re interested, you can read that research here). This identified that 88% of those surveyed believed they should be informed if influencers are being paid to promote products, with 60% agreeing that their perception of a brand improves when the brand is transparent about product promotion. I’m sure those figures would be at least broadly the same if we asked the same questions again today.
However, despite subsequent efforts by the ASA and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), it looks to me as though a lot of influencers don’t care about their followers and don’t care about the brands they are being paid to promote either.
As a consumer I want to know if someone is genuinely enthusiastic about a product or has been paid a packet to pretend they’re interested in it. Seriously, how difficult is it to add a label so that people will know? All you have to is make sure you include #Ad, preferably upfront, so that people can see it. If you want more guidance, there’s more detail from the ASA here.
ASA means business
Commenting on the new webpage and the publication of the non-compliance list, ASA Chief Executive, Guy Parker, said, “We prefer to work with influencers and brands to help them stick to the rules, but the first influencers to be named on this list have been given every opportunity to treat people fairly about their ads. It’s not difficult: be upfront and clear when posts and stories are ads. If this doesn’t bring about the changes we expect, we won’t hesitate to consider further sanctions.”
The ASA is being bullish and that’s got to be good for us, the public, and for the promotions industry as a whole. The further sanctions Parker mentions could include working with social media platforms to remove content, taking out ads against the influencers who continue to break the rules on disclosure or referring the offending parties to statutory bodies for possible fines.
I, for one, am pleased to hear that the latter is being seriously considered. Errant influencers have been educated about what is expected of them in terms of disclosure, allowed to regulate themselves and treated leniently when they fail to reach the standards set. However, at the end of the day – and this has been going on for years, so I think we’ve probably reached that point now – there’s a sizeable group of persistent offenders who probably need to be prosecuted.
And if the influencers don’t sit up and take note, perhaps the companies that employ them to promote their products and services will, because the ASA says it will also be looking to take action against brands that repeatedly fail to disclose ads or don’t provide assurances that they will properly label ads in future.
At Prizeology we’re compliance experts. If you’d like our advice on any aspect of promotions, do call us on 020 7856 0402 or email us via email@example.com.
Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Founder and Chief Prizeologist.