UK shoppers say brands aren't transparent about influencer deals and rules need tightened

61% of shoppers don't think brands are being transparent about how they use influencers to promote their products online

71% of UK consumers wrongly believe that influencer marketing is not regulated at all, with a further 61% saying they don't think brands are being transparent about how they use influencers to promote their products online.

As part of a study into the medium, promotions agency Prizeology spoke to over 2,000 shoppers about campaigns on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and more, and it found that rules around what influencers can and can’t do online were unclear for most Brits.

The figures, which come amid a call from Unilever's top marketer Keith Weed to make 2018 "the year when social media must win trust back", indicated that over half of the UK public (61%) thought influencers did not have to disclose when they had been paid to talk about a product.

A further 49% said they weren't aware of the hashtags and language – terms like #ad #spon #sp – which are used to disclose commercial relationships between brands and influencers.

The findings follow on from a separate 2016 Takumi report which found that six in 10 marketing professionals had flouted the UK's official influencer marketing rules.

Last year, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) revealed that it was readying for a crackdown on brands and platforms that do not properly signpost paid for content.

Prizeology's study also discovered that 71% of consumers believe the ASA should be doing more to enforce disclosure, and that 56% thought brands and influencers should be punished for failing to be transparent.

In 2017 the ASA, along with the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) issued fresh guidelines for brands working with influencers, urging both parties to protect consumers before they engage with content that is sponsored.

However, ASA chief Guy Parker has since admitted that adequately signposted native, affiliate and influencer advertising is simply not where the industry needs it to be, adding that the regulator was planning its own research into how to combat this.

Over the past 12 months, several influencer campaigns have been spiked by the watchdog 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.

Overall, 44% of the UK public said they felt influencer marketing was "damaging" to society.

Regulators have previously likened the process of policing influencer marketing to being like playing "a game of whack-a-mole".

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