Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 5 September 2019
Law stated as at: 4 December 2019
The ASA has published the findings of its most recent research report on social media posts by influencers. The report confirms that the ASA’s current approach of expecting users to use an identifier such as #ad is the bare minimum required where the post is deemed to be an ad.
As a reminder, the ASA will deem a post by an influencer to be an ad where the influencer has been paid (or otherwise incentivised) to make the post and the brand has some sort of involvement in the content or messages to be included in the post. In these cases, an upfront disclosure such as #ad will be needed. Even where the brand does not have any input into the content of the post, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has maintained that it expects the fact that there is a commercial connection between the brand and the influencer, or the fact that the influencer has been incentivised, to be made completely clear.
This recent ASA report found that research participants were much more likely to identify a post as ‘definitely an ad’ if it had a visible and well understood disclosure. While this is hardly surprising, the research underlined that the wording and positioning of labels are vital in whether an individual realises that they are looking at an ad. Where labels or disclosures were used at the end of a post or in other positions where they could be easily overlooked, the post was less likely to be identified by participants as advertising.
The report also found that the majority of participants understood what was meant by the labels ‘advertisement’, ‘advert’ or ‘ad’. However, more opaque labels such as “spon” or “sp” appeared to lead fewer participants to conclude that a post was an ad. Therefore, using the tried and trusted #ad label upfront seems to be safe ground.
Why this matters:
The publishing of the report is a continuation of a long-running focus area for the ASA. Given the findings around prominence and location of ad labels, it would not be surprising to see the ASA adjudicate against even more influencer posts where #ad is not used towards the start of the post or, in the case of a post which includes a picture, in a clearly contrasting colour on the picture itself.
The full ASA research report can be accessed here
Trailer: The ASA has been researching consumer understanding of paid social media posts in order to get a sense of when people will understand a post to be an ad. The findings are in and the report has been published. Ben Dunham reports.