I like Louise Thompson. You know, she of Made In Chelsea (she came fourth in series 2 of The Jump as well). Yes, she’s had her issues with anxiety and binge-drinking, but then being a reality TV star can’t be easy. She seems in a good place right now, though, and she’s even written a book called Live Well With Louise. So, yes, I like her, I follow on her Instagram, where she’s always posting pictures of, er, herself and occasionally pictures of, er, herself with her hunky personal trainer boyfriend, Ryan Libbey.
Louise is an influencer. She’s got 1.1 million Insta followers and, as I say, I like her, but she’s not big on transparency. When I give a presentation about influencer marketing and the regulations around it, Louise is my go-to girl. As you may know, I’m a bit of a stickler for the rules and I often put up one of her posts as an example of poor practice, because when Louise posts it’s usually pretty hard to work out whether she has a commercial relationship with the company whose products she is promoting or not.
And now someone else has noticed that Louise is a bit lax on the old disclosures, because a complaint was made to the ASA about one of her posts. This showed Lou wearing a watch and cuff with the caption: “sippin’ on yummy coconuts 3x size of my skull! Wearing my @danielwellington classic petite Melrose 28mm watch and matching cuff… you can get 15% off using the code ‘LOUISE’.” Unsurprisingly, the complainant challenged whether the post was obviously identifiable as a marketing communication and, equally unsurprisingly, the ASA found that it wasn’t. Those three little characters – #ad – were nowhere to be seen and so the ASA upheld the complaint.
Daniel Wellington sell nice watches. They’re classy and although they’re by no means ridiculously expensive, the model Louise was showing off will set you back over a hundred quid, so the 15% discount she was offering was certainly worth having. Daniel Wellington employed Louise to promote their watches. We know that because the company told the ASA it had a written contract with Louise which stated that a term such as “#sponsored” or “#ad” should be used to make it clear that the post was a promotion for Daniel Wellington. The terms of the contract also stated that disclosures should be made at the top of a post and above the Show More button if there was one.
The company went further and told the ASA that it was their policy to instruct collaboration partners to use the appropriate wording to make it clear that the uploaded content was advertising. They expected all Daniel Wellington ambassadors promoting their products to ensure that they complied with the applicable rules regarding marketing and that they took responsibility for designing their social media posts in the agreed manner.
To my mind, Daniel Wellington worked hard to comply with the CAP Code and had a contract in place that should have meant Louise’s post was obviously identifiable as a marketing communication. Essentially, Daniel Wellington did pretty much exactly what I advise clients to do, but my reading of the ASA’s ruling makes me think that Louise, bless her, didn’t really fulfil her side of the contract.
The ASA ended by telling both Louise Thompson and Daniel Wellington to ensure that in future their ads were obviously identifiable as marketing communications, for example by including a clear and prominent identifier such as #ad. However, the ruling as a whole cited Daniel Wellington, not our Louise, in the heading, so despite following the rules, Daniel Wellington was the real focus of the ASA’s criticism. In other words, it was the brand not the influencer who took the rap.
Maybe Daniel Wellington don’t care enough about the ASA to give it the time of day. Maybe they’re unconcerned by reputational damage, but the fact that the company did have a pretty good contract in place suggests otherwise… This leads me to conclude that brands may need to a keep tighter control over their relationships with influencers – some already insist on approving posts before they’re published – and that if influencers want to hold on to the not inconsiderable income streams they derive from relationships with brands, they may need to tighten up their professionalism.
Whether your promotion is running on social media or traditional media, Prizeology is able to advise on CAP Code compliance. Do get in touch if that’s something we can help you with.
Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist and a National Trading Standards Scams Team Scambassador. She really does follow Louise Thompson on Instagram.