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#ad #gifted – a clampdown on social media influencers

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has always said that advertising must be clearly labelled and that full disclosure is necessary where a brand has provided payment (be it financial or a gift) and has a degree of control over the influencer’s content.

However, in a haze of photo shoots, free press trips, endless lattes, emails, tweets, Instagram posts and hashtags, the rules about what constitutes ‘clearly labelled’ and ‘control’ have been forgotten.

Five years after the ASA introduced the #ad as a way for internet celebrities to clearly mark paid-for posts, The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has stepped further into the world of influencer marketing and have published new consumer law compliance guidance for social media influencers. This guidance expands on previous CMA advice by providing more detail on how influencers should make it clear to their followers if they have been paid, incentivised or in any way rewarded to endorse or review something in their posts.

The new suggestions include:

  • Disclosing any relationships with a brand over the past year (as well as any current relationship).
  • Using signposting such as "Advertisement Feature", "Advertisement Promotion" or #Ad, #Advert plus the "Paid Partnership" tool on Instagram. The CMA acknowledges that what works will change as social media evolves and comments that this list is not prescriptive.
  •  Disclosure should be upfront and mustn’t require the user to click on anything.
  •  Disclosure must be made on all content, not just your profile page.
  •  The language used must be clear and recognisable to your audience.
  •  Products that have been part of a paid campaign or gifted to you in the past, must be disclosed when they appear in all future content.

Celebrities earn thousands of pounds for posting adverts for brands, and this new commitment to transparency is commendable – at the last count, 16 influencers have vowed to the CMA that they will be clear in their online posts about whether they have been paid to promote a product. It’s no coincidence that by agreeing to this they have avoided court action. Under the CMA’s remit, influencers who break the rules can be fined and even jailed for up to two years.

 Young, impressionable audiences deserve to know whether someone they admire is truly recommending a product or being paid to do so. However, Influencers will tell you where the outfit they’re wearing is from and the name of the moisturiser they used – are they just being helpful or are they advertising? I’m not sure I know, would a pre-teen know and, more importantly, does the CMA know?

 Contact Chris Taylor on 01484 821300 or at for more information.