Are you sitting comfortably? Good, because today I’m going to tell you a story about unfortunate influencer and reality TV star Olivia Buckland. You might remember Olivia from Love Island 2016, where she coupled up with Alex Bowen. Sadly, they didn’t win the show, but Olivia had a fairy-tale ending nonetheless, because, yes reader, she married him!
Now that was back in September and as I write the pair seem to be honeymooning in the Maldives. Lucky them! Obviously, I wish them all the happiness in the world and do hope the fact that the ASA recently upheld a complaint about one of Olivia’s posts hasn’t cast a shadow over their lovely romantic luxury holiday.
The post in question was an Instagram video about an eyeshadow palette from a company called W7 Cosmetics, for which Olivia is a brand ambassador. For me that phrase always conjures up the ambassador’s party in the marvellous Ferrero Rocher TV ad, but anyway, Olivia is a brand ambassador for W7 and it says so in her Instagram bio, so she assumed all her followers knew that and she didn’t need to add #Ad to her post. If she had done it would have made the post obviously identifiable as a marketing communication and she might have avoided becoming the subject of a complaint.
W7 and Olivia’s agent gave the ASA a response in which they said that as part of her ambassadorship Olivia was paid to do photoshoots, make appearances and attend press days, but was not specifically paid to post on social media about W7 products and the brand had not given her any instructions in relation to hersocial media content. In short, Olivia’s defence was that this beauty blog-style post was entirely separate and unrelated to her role as an ambassador for the brand.
The ASA considered this and, while it accepted that the contract between Olivia and W7 didn’t make stipulations about her social media content, it pointed out that it did require her to promote the brand and its products, and portray them in a positive light at all times. That effectively restricted what she could post – had she wanted to criticise, say, the eyeshadow palette’s range of colours, she couldn’t – and meant that W7 had control.
An Influencer’s Guide to Making Clear that Ads are Ads, the guidance recently published by the ASA in conjunction with the CMA, explains all this, and has a neat little flow chart which helps influencers determine whether what they’re about to post is an ad or not, but sadly that wasn’t around to help Olivia when she creating this video.
As a result, the ASA concluded that her post failed to signal it was advertising, as opposed to, for example, genuinely independent editorial content, so in the absence of a clear identifier such as #Ad it wasn’t obviously identifiable as a marketing communication and had breached the CAP Code.
Poor Olivia. This has turned out to be something of a cautionary tale. However, I don’t imagine she’ll let this little mishap hold her back. She certainly didn’t let second place on Love Island stop her from building a lucrative career as an influencer and, glancing enviously at the pictures of her and Alex snorkelling in the beautiful blue waters of the Indian Ocean, she doesn’t exactly look as though she’s bothered by the ASA’s ruling, so perhaps I don’t need to worry too much about her…
Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist.