ASA probes influencer marketing rules so consumers don’t have to ‘play detective’ to spot ads

Platforms like Instagram have already introduced their own labeling systems, as seen here between Amazon and the Kardashians / Instagram

The UK’s advertising watchdog is to launch a review into how paid-for influencer and native advertising is signposted online, saying that misleading posts damage consumer trust in advertising.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has just announced the first stage of the project, which will examine people’s ability to identify when the content they are seeing or hearing is advertising.

The review will investigate whether current guidelines around both influencer deals and sponsored content printed by online publishers are fit for purpose,

At the start of this year, 71% of UK shoppers admitted to subscribing to the incorrect belief that influencer marketing was not regulated. A further 49% said they weren’t aware of the hashtags and language used to disclose commercial relationships between brands and influencers – including terms like #spon, #sp and #ad.

Guy Parker, the watchdog’s chief executive has suggested that while social influencers and native advertising are still “relatively new” disciplines, the industry needs reminded that advertising rules haven’t changed.

He added: “People shouldn’t have to play the detective to work out if they’re being advertised to. That means the status of a tweet, blog, vlog, Instagram post or story should be clear.”

As per the guidelines set by the ASA's regulatory arm, the Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP), both brands and influencers have a responsibility to ensure consumers are made aware that content is sponsored before they engage with it.

The CAP also currently states that advertisers should be aware of the "quirks of each platform", given that apps like Instagram and Snapchat have features like ephemeral capabilities.

Parker has previously singled out platforms like Instagram for failing to correctly signpost commercial content, with the ASA saying its consultation is in response to the growing trend of brands inking deals with influencers and publishers which has “blurred the lines” between advertising and editorial content.

Instagram is among the platforms to have already introduced its own labeling system for branded content. Last year, it rolled out a paid partnership’ tag (pictured in action above) which was designed to help content creators communicate they were working in collaboration with a business.

Over the past 12 months, several influencer campaigns have been spiked by the ASA including an Instagram ad which promoted Flat Tummy Tea and a Diamond Whites teeth whitening promotion from Geordie Shore star Marnie Simpson which ran on Snapchat.

Following its initial call for evidence, the watchdog said it hopes to provide further context and insight on this issue. It will also commission research into public understanding in this are, and if the evidence suggests that it needs to change the rules it will set out how it plans to achieve that.

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