Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), Rio Ferdinand, Qatar Tourism t/a Visit Qatar
Where: United Kingdom
When: 14 June 2023
Law stated as at: 10 July 2023
The ASA has banned a social media post by Rio Ferdinand, promoting tourism in Qatar.
Rio Ferdinand’s post, as seen on 21 December 2022, included a video with the caption: “Time spent eating my bodyweight in the kitchen! That’s a wrap for Qatar, been great filming behind the scenes and meeting so many locals!”. The text underneath the post stated “#VisitQatar” and below that – “#ad”. These hashtags were not visible via a mobile device unless the user clicked a “more” button.
A viewer of the post, made a complaint to the ASA on the basis that it was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication. This complaint was upheld by the ASA, which required Rio Ferdinand and the Qatar Tourism (trading as Visit Qatar) to ensure the ad did not appear again in the same form.
When assessing the post, the ASA noted that Rio Ferdinand had a commercial relationship with Visit Qatar and had been paid to promote the tourism industry on his social media. Both parties were considered jointly responsible for ensuring that any marketing on Rio Ferdinand’s page was compliant with The UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing Code (CAP Code).
According to the ASA, Rio Ferdinand’s representative said they believed all guidelines had been followed as the post included an #ad label. However, the ASA considered that the positioning of the label was not sufficiently prominent to make clear upfront to users that it was an ad. Particularly, as the #ad label was not visible on a mobile device without clicking the “more” button. On this basis, the ASA concluded that the ad “did not make clear upfront its commercial intent” and was not an obviously identifiable marketing communication, in breach of 2.1 and 2.4 of the CAP Code.
Why this matters: This decision is a useful reminder for advertisers to ensure that any marketing communications are obviously identifiable and that their commercial intent is made clear. Any identifiers which are used in marketing communication such as “#ad” should be clearly and prominently displayed and, as demonstrated in this ruling, including this in a position that is not immediately visible (for example, in text visible only if the user clicks the “more” button or beneath the fold) is not sufficient.