How to label influencer’s paid-for posts

The ASA has just published a report called The Labelling of Influencer Advertising and the key finding is that people find it hard to identify when social media posts by influencers are ads. I mean, who knew? Well, actually, we did.

Far be it from me to blow Prizeology’s own trumpet. In fact, so modest are we that we don’t even have a Prizeology trumpet, just a kazoo, but back in February 2018 we published a white paper entitled Under the Influence: UK Consumer Attitudes to Social Media Influencer Marketing

It was so long ago I’ve had to check the statistics, but our research said that 61% of the UK public believe influencers don’t have to disclose that they have been paid to talk about a product, and 49% are not aware of the hashtags and language that must be used to indicate that there is a commercial relationship between an influencer and a brand.

To be fair, the ASA’s report does quote Prizeology’s findings, but the ASA also commissioned its own qualitative as well as quantitative research from Ipsos Mori. Interestingly, this identified that a “notable” proportion of participants failed to identify ads which included product shots, brand names and logos as “definitely advertising”.

The ASA points out that this highlights the challenge of differentiating all types of advertising content from other content on social media platforms, and says the findings demonstrate that the ASA’s current approach of requiring a suitably prominent reference to #ad (or similar) is necessary as a minimum. That is, can I just stress, as a minimum.

In other words, labels are needed and the ASA’s current approach of requiring influencers to use a prominent reference, such as #ad, is necessary. Influencers should therefore be upfront and clear with their followers about when they are advertising.

The ASA points out that for an influencer post to be obviously identifiable, a label must first be noticed and then understood. I think on the one hand that’s obvious, isn’t it? A driver needs to notice a stop sign and then understand what it means before, hopefully, reacting to it. However,

Even though it’s taken 18 months to produce this report, it is certainly rigorous and I welcome it, because it provides a solid academic basis for #ad labelling and makes it harder for influencers to ignore the requirement to signal clearly to their followers that they are posting about a particular brand or product because they’ve been paid to do so, whether that’s in hard cash or in kind.

Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist and recently named in the Top 10 Women in the Corporate World to watch

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