ASA’s new influencer guidelines, including ‘Wall of Shame’
The Advertising Standards Authority have recently launched a dedicated web page to highlight problem influencers who continuously flout the rules and mislead the public about their supposedly personal posts that are really adverts. This comes in the same week that the industry watchdog also gave reality TV star Stephen Bear a warning for breaking the rules with his YouTube prize promotion. Petra Green, Lawyer at PromoVeritas, examines what’s going wrong in the world of influencer marketing and ASA influencer guidelines:
The ASA’s brand new non-compliance webpage features influencers who have already been put on notice regarding breaking the rules and yet still fail to correctly label their posts as adverts. The first four influencers to be published on the page for breaking ASA guidelines for influencers – Geordie Shaw’s Chloe Ferry, Big Brother contestant Chloe Khan (in a recent example post below), former TOWIE star Lucy Mecklenburgh and TV personality Jodie Marsh – were amongst 122 Instagram accounts that were monitored for ad disclosure by the ASA back in March. Brands should remember that negative PR against an influencer that they use will rub off negatively on the brand’s own reputation
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New ASA guidelines for influencers
As part of their investigation the ASA’s Compliance Team contacted the influencers to provide assurances of their future compliance with the rules – something these four neglected to agree to. They now face being named on the webpage for three months and spot checks of their accounts, but if they continue to break the rules the ASA will implement further sanctions including;
- Running adverts that name and shame them
- Working with social media platforms to have their content removed
- Referring them to statutory bodies for possible fines
The ASA’s Chief Executive, Guy Parker stated “We prefer to work with influencers and brands to help them stick to the rules, but the first influencers to be named on this list have been given every opportunity to treat people fairly about their ads. It’s not difficult: be upfront and clear when posts and Stories are ads. If this doesn’t bring about the changes we expect, we won’t hesitate to consider further sanctions.”
Meanwhile, Celebrity Big Brother winner Stephen Bear received an ASA ruling after he broke the rules relating to the running of prize draws. He posted a series of videos on his YouTube channel promoting a £10,000 giveaway. To enter, viewers simply had Like the video, subscribe to the channel and then post the number of kick ups he performed on Instagram, but a complaint was made challenging whether the promotion was administered fairly and if the prize was awarded to a genuine entrant in accordance with the laws of chance. In the videos Bear clearly fails to comply with basic CAP Code promotion rules by selecting the winner himself – he asked his father to scroll through the entries on his phone until he shouted ‘Stop!’ on camera. His lack of response and disregard for the CAP Code was also noted in the Ruling – and we expect to see him grace the non-compliance page soon too!”
Credit: Steven Bear, YouTube: Pictured with his father selecting the winner by phone.
What can you do?
The above serves as a warning to brands (and their agencies) that influencers are not above the law and need to be carefully managed. Since both, the brand and the influencer are equally responsible for following the ASA rules here are our top tips on ensuring your influencer talent does not land you in hot water:
- Training – get some expert training and guidance on what the key rules to follow are and how to select the right Influencer.
- Due Diligence – do thorough background checks on potential influencer talent.
- Guidelines – create a clear framework for both the brand and the influencer to work within that is clear about what the rules are and how to follow them.
- Contracts – don’t ignore this vital element. It controls the dialogue and determines the responsibilities of both parties. It needs to be drafted by someone with relevant experience, not just a rehash of an old media contract.
- Check – always review copy for a post ahead of publication to ensure it doesn’t breach the rules and carry out spot checks to ensure the influencer is sticking to them.
Is this enough to stop the influencers?
The PromoVeritas Point of View is that the ASA’s new webpage is certainly a step in the right direction, but these influencers are both ignorant and arrogant and probably think that ‘there’s no such thing as bad news’. The future sanctions are definitely worth bringing in sooner rather than later in our opinion, but brands need to do all they can in the meantime to protect their reputation and ensure their influencer campaigns are risk-free. Following our tips is important and our Influencer services can help you put them in place with the minimum of fuss and cost.