The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rules state that it must be obvious to consumers before they read, ‘like’ or otherwise interact with a social media post if what they are engaging with is advertising.
Yet despite years of ASA Rulings on this subject and the publication of guidance materials to help influencers comply with the rules, some influencers are failing to comply. Indeed, in an ASA report published last year, the ASA found that out of 24,000 Instagram Stories that were investigated, one in four qualified as marketing but only a mere 35% of them were clearly labelled and obviously identifiable as advertising.
In the wake of that report, the ASA began to publicly name specific influencers and brands who flouted advertising rules. A new section on the ASA website was created in June 2021. The webpage lists social media influencers who continually fail to transparently disclose social media posts as paid promotions. Those listed either fail to provide assurance to the CAP compliance team that they would include "clear and upfront" ad labels in their ads (e.g. #ad) or subsequently reneged on such an assurance.
In January 2022, following repeated non-compliance by several individuals, the ASA announced that it would run the following targeted ads against six named influencers to help raise consumer awareness of their potentially misleading content. The six influencers were Francesca Allen, Jess Gale, Eve Gale, Belle Hassan, Jodie Marsh and Anna Vakili:
“[Name] has been sanctioned by the UK’s ad regulator for not declaring ads on this platform. Be aware that products and services recommended or featured by this influencer may have been paid for by those brands. Our non-compliant social media influencer page at asa.org.uk is regularly updated to inform consumers of those who break these rules.”
In a world where an influencer’s success is dictated by the number of followers they have and their ability to maintain those followers, the ASA hopes that this kind of targeted advertising, which is more likely to be seen by followers, will incentivise more influencers to comply with the Codes.