ASA ruling: Pretty Little Thing TikTok promotion
This post concerns a complaint made to the ASA about a video posted on TikTok by the Wave House. I’ll assume you all know the basics of what TikTok is, but let me briefly explain that the Wave House is a collective of half a dozen early twenties influencers – namely, Kate Elisabeth, Spencer Elmer, Eloise Fouladgar, Jimbo H, Carmie Sellitto and Millie T – who live together in a large and rather opulent mansion, and make TikTok videos about their lives.
That makes me sound rather knowledgeable, but in all honesty I couldn’t say I’m much a TikTok content expert. As I understand it, the house concept was lifted from the Hype House in Los Angeles and is big on TikTok, and I believe the ‘reveal’ of the occupants is all-important. If you want more than that, though, I’ll have to refer you to the Daily Mail.
However, the complaint in question was actually about the first iteration (or ‘wave’ – I guess that’s the conceit) of the Wave House, so I should have used the past tense above because, again, as I understand it, the original household is no more and a new set of housemates have now moved into a new property.
Anyway, back to what I genuinely do know about and on 25 October 2020 a video posted on the Wave House TikTok account showed two men wearing leather jackets sitting in convertibles. Two women wearing pink jackets were then shown chatting to the men and the reverse of the women’s jackets were adorned with the embroidered words ‘Pretty Little Thing’.
The next shot showed the women waving a chequered flag to signal the start of a race and the men then sped away in the cars. The video description read, ‘Who do you think won this race? @prettylittlething #grease #fyp.’ (BTW and FYI, in TikTok language FYP stands for ‘For you page’ and references the landing page showcasing videos TikTok thinks individual users might like or want to watch).
I feel I’ve described the video adequately and I’m sure that, if you’re reading this, you’re likely to be sufficiently savvy to recognise it as a marketing promotion. You’re probably also smart enough to know that if it was a promotion, it should have had #Ad attached to it – but it didn’t and that was the basis of this complaint.
The fashion retailer Pretty Little Thing confirmed that the Wave House had been contracted to produce this promotion, but said that the agreement stipulated compliance with the CAP Code and expressly stated that all social media posts in connection with the agreement should be obviously identifiable as ads through the use of the #Ad disclosure.
The Wave House agreed that the ad had been posted in error without the required ad label and said that had they noticed the error themselves, they would have corrected the mistake and reposted the ad in accordance with the CAP Code. In the event, updating wasn’t possible and so the post was removed. It won’t surprise you to hear that the ASA upheld the complaint and gave the Wave House and Pretty Little Thing a ticking off.
This wasn’t the first time there have been complaints about promotional posts on TikTok – in the recent past the ASA has found against both Boohoo and Luke Mabbott, and Jemella and Emily Canham – but I wanted to draw your attention to this case to emphasise that the CAP Code does apply to TikTok, and to any and every social media platform. The bottom line is that, whatever the platform, marketing communications must always be recognisable as such.