Louise Thompson, one of the stars of Channel 4's reality TV series Made In Chelsea, has been reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for failing to disclose that one of her Instagram posts was in fact an ad.
The regulator has cautioned the influencer and banned a promotion she posted on behalf of watchmaker Daniel Wellington, saying she should have used a label like #ad or #sponsored to indicate the content was paid for by the brand.
The ruling comes in the midst of a review from the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the ASA into how paid-for influencer and native advertising is signposted online.
Thompson's post, published in April, featured the star wearing a Daniel Wellington watch.
A caption alongside it read: ‘Sippin on yummy coconuts 3x [sic] size of my skull! Wearing my Daniel Wellington Classic Petite Melrose 28mm watch and matching cuff. You can get 15% off using the code ‘LOUISE’.’
In the photo, Thomson had tagged Daniel Wellington's official Instagram page, but did not include any identifiers like #ad, as recommended by the ASA.
Daniel Wellington told the ASA that its contract with Thompson stipulated that she should use terms of disclosure such as #sponsored or #ad, and stated: “Daniel Wellington expected all of their ambassadors who had marketed Daniel Wellington products to ensure that they complied with applicable rules regarding marketing and that they took responsibility for designing their social media posts.”
However, the company also argued that the central position of the watch in the Instagram post would make it clear to users that the image was sponsored.
The ASA said that since Thompson and the watchmaker had signed a written contract, the post constituted marketing, and therefore fell under the remit of the code. It added that “in the absence of a clear identifier... we concluded that the post was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication and that it breached the code.”
Thompson and Daniel Wellington have been told by the ASA to “ensure that in future, ads are obviously identifiable, by including a clear and prominent identifier such as #ad.”
The influencer since updated the post to include Instagram's own 'paid partnership' label.
The way ads are disclosed online by both talent and publishers has been a subject of intense debate over the past 12 months.
At the start of this year, 49% of UK consumers 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 ASA's chief executive has previously said that people shouldn’t "have to play the detective to work out if they’re being advertised to."
The outcome of the regulator's current review into online advertising and how it's signposted will be revealed later this year.
Away from disclosure, the ASA's ruling comes as marketers are shining a spotlight on the effectiveness and media value of influencer marketing.
In June, Unilever's top marketer Keith Weed issued a call to arms for the industry to come together to help tackle the issue of fake followers.
A recent study from the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), found that 65% of multinational brands have plans to increase their influencer investment, with 100% saying they already run campaigns on Instagram. However, separate research indicated that 12% of Instagram influencers had shown signs of buying bot followers in the past six months.