The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has penalised a sleeping pill brand Sanofi for paying a micro-influencer to endorse medicine.
The Instagram ad in question was posted by 'ThisMamaLife' and featured her in bed, smiling, while in the background a packet of Phenergan Night Time tablets sits on her bedside table.
The post read: “[AD] Sleep. Who needs more of it? I'm really lucky in that I don't actually need a lot of sleep to get by and manage to cram all sorts into my evening, being the night owl I am. Every now and again though, daily life can get a bit overwhelming and I often find it's my sleep that ends up suffering. I end up going to bed even later than I usually do and am not able to fall asleep..."
It continues: "The worry of not sleeping then adds to it all and I end up a complete and utter zombie!! Last time this happened I tried out Phenergan Night Time, which really helped. It is a pharmacy only, short term solution to insomnia for adults which works by inducing a sleepy effect thanks to its active ingredient, promethazine hydrochloride, helping you to sleep through the night. Do you guys fall asleep easily or are you night time over thinkers like me? #AD #sleep”.
Following the post, the ASA received a complaint which challenged whether the ad used a celebrity to endorse a medicine.
There is an ad rule against marketers using health professionals or celebrities to endorse medicines.
Therefore, at 37.7 thousand followers, it's questionable whether 'HotMamaLife' classifies as a celebrity.
Sanofi responded to the accusation to argue that the Instagram influencer had a small niche following, which was unlikely to influence a medicinal decision taken by a consumer.
It pushed that when you consider her followers against recognised celebrities on Instagram, like Stephen Fry (329,000) and David Beckham (55m), she has comparatively less.
Therefore, it said that the blogger did not constitute a celebrity. It also said it partnership was checked by the Proprietary Association of Great Britain who passed it.
The ASA, therefore, assessed whether the blogger was a celebrity for the purpose of the rule against endorsing medicine.
It noted how the ad included a caption that detailed the micro-influencer's positive experience using the medicine, which it felt would make consumers believe she had used the medicine, and recommended it - therefore endorsing it.
Although it noted Sanofi's argument that she has comparatively less followers than recognised celebrities, it considered that over 30,000 followers indicated she had the attention of a significant number of people.
It, therefore, deemed the ad breached the rule and said the ad must not appear again. It also told Sanofi to ensure it did not use celebrities, including social influencers, to endorse medicine in future.