Earlier this year, we commented on a report published by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which found that 35% of influencer advertising was not obviously identifiable as such.
In the wake of its report, the ASA threatened to publically name specific influencers and brands who flouted advertising rules, and it has now taken the first step in this process. As part of the influencer monitoring work undertaken by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), it has launched a new website listing social media influencers who have routinely failed to clearly disclose when they are advertising to consumers on their social media channels. Those listed on the website either failed 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. As a result, these influencers will now be subject to a period of enhanced monitoring spot checks. The ASA notes on its website that further failures to comply "might result in further targeted sanctions such as ASA paid ad campaigns highlighting the influencer’s continued non-compliance and onwards referral to enforcement partners" – a move which could lead to the removal of posts or further legal action.
At the time of writing, the UK's advertising watchdog has already called out reality TV stars Chloe Ferry, Chloe Khan, Jodie Marsh and Lucy Mecklenburgh for failing to properly disclose advertisements on their social media channels. The UK-based influencers routinely share images of themselves using beauty products.
The crackdown comes as consumer concern about influencers' conduct on social media is reaching record highs. In 2020, the ASA reported a 55% year-on-year increase in complaints against influencers across various platforms, 61% of which were about ad disclosures on Instagram. Amidst this backdrop, a DCMS Select Committee is investigating the impact of influencers and examining whether there is sufficient regulation of their promotion of products and services. The ASA suggests that it will also be looking to take action against brands that repeatedly fail to disclose ads or do not provide appropriate reassurances.