Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Charlotte Dawson
Where: United Kingdom
When: 15 February 2023
Law stated as at: 8 March 2023
Influencer Charlotte Dawson posted three social media stories. Two complainants challenged whether the ads featured in these posts were obviously identifiable as marketing communications, and three complainants believed that filters used by the influencer exaggerated the efficacy of the products.
Charlotte Dawson’s representatives responded to the claim with two arguments. Firstly, the fact that Charlotte had tagged #myownbrand in all three of her stories made it clear that she was promoting her own products. The size of the font was not something that was considered, and Ms Dawson could not control where every person who viewed her story looked on the screen.
Their second argument was in regards to the filters used. They argued that Ms Dawson frequently used different filters in her stories to make her content more amusing, just like many other users did. The filters used by Ms Dawson, such as “Golden Shine” were not used to suggest that her tanning product would create the sparkles the filter creates, but rather were used as filters Ms Dawson enjoyed. They did, however, urge Ms Dawson to be more careful when selecting her tanning filters.
In relation to the first issue, according to the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code), marketing communications must clearly communicate their commercial intent, if it is not obvious from the context. According to the ASA, Ms Dawson’s ads qualified as marketing communications. All three ads advertised tanning products from Ms Dawson’s own range, which were available for consumers to purchase, along with promotional codes they could use when purchasing.
The ASA did not find Ms Dawson’s references (handle @dawsyliciooustanning, as well as her username ”charlottedawsy”, and URL ‘DAWSYLICIOUSTANNING.CO.UK’) enough to identify the stories as advertisements. The ASA found that it was not clear to all social media users that Ms Dawson was promoting her own products, and that the posts did not include the word ‘#ad’ to indicate that they were marketing communications.
Ms Dawson’s ads included the hashtag #myownbrand, in the same colour and font as the main text but smaller in size, which social media users might not have noticed. According to the ASA, an advertisement’s commercial intent should be evident. Additionally, the text seemed to be hidden in the top right corner of the ad, in contrast to the main text which was placed centrally, and the ASA considered that consumers would pay attention to that larger text.
The ASA found that the three ads breached CAP Code’s rules 2.1 and 2.3 (Recognitions of marketing communications) as a result of the posts not making clear their intent was to advertise Ms Dawson’s own brand, and therefore, they were not obvious identifiable marketing communications.
In relation to the second issue, the ASA also considered that the overall use of the filters was not inherently problematic, but that care was needed when using them, to avoid exaggerating and misleading consumers in relation to the product being advertised.
All ads in question promoted Ms Dawson’s tanning and moisturising products. The ASA considered that consumers would understand from the posts that Ms Dawson had used the products featured, that her image reflected the results of the product, and that by applying the product they would achieve the results shown in the posts.
Two ads stated “california by Marianna_hewitt” and the third ad stated “Golden Shine by felipe alcantaraof” which the ASA understood were filters. The ASA considered the names of the filters were suggestive of a tanning and alternation effect, and that the filters were directly relevant to the intended effect of the product. The ASA found that consumers would not always be able to distinguish that the image represented the accurate result of using one of Ms Dawson’s products.
The ASA considered that the filters gave a misleading impression about the performance capabilities of the product and found the ads to be in breach of the CAP Code’s (edition 12) rules 3.1 (misleading advertising) and 3.11 (Exaggeration).
The ASA concluded that the ads must not appear again in the form complained of. The ASA notified Ms Dawson that marketing communications in the future should be clear in her ads, and suggested the use of identifiers such as #ad.
Further, the ASA notified Ms Dawson of the risks of using beauty filters on photos promoting beauty products, and the way in which they may mislead customers as to the capabilities of the product.
Why this matters:
Influencers should be aware of the fact that their advertising on the platform must be as truthful and clear as possible to social media users. The use of filters must be considered carefully so as to not exaggerate the product they are advertising, or mislead consumers. Influencers should also ensure that the font size and advertisement is clear as to the commercial intent of the post.