Ex on the Beach influencer’s ‘irresponsible ad’ banned by the ASA
This week an ASA Ruling against Ex on the Beach star Jemma Lucy for promoting a weight loss drink whilst pregnant highlights once again the dangers for brands using Influencers to promote their products without following the rules.
The ASA received 25 complaints about the ad which featured the pregnant celebrity undressed and holding a mug whilst sitting beside Skinny Caffe weight loss products along with the comment “I’ve been staying in shape with my go to @skinnycaffe products….I love to use them as me and some of the girls have been seeing great results and they work with or without exercise. You can lose up to 7lbs in 7 days with Thermosyn. Right now you can claim your first packet of Thermosyn free by clicking here”.
Three issues were identified by the complaints received;
- The post was not clearly identified as an advertisement
- The ad was irresponsible for encouraging weight loss during pregnancy
- The “lose up to 7lbs in 7 days” claim implied weight loss attributed to the consumption of a food which is a breach of the CAP Code
White Star Key Group, the company behind Skinny Caffe, responded that Jemma Lucy had posted the ad as a favour to a friend and that she hadn’t implied that she used the products whilst pregnant, nor had she written the post’s content.
Despite this the ASA upheld the complaints and told Jemma Lucy and The White Star Key group “to ensure that in future their ads were obviously identifiable as marketing communications, for example, by including a clear and prominent identifier such as “#ad” at the start of the post. We also told Skinny Caffe not to encourage unsafe practices, such as consuming products during pregnancy that were intended to aid weight loss, and not to make claims that referred to a rate or amount of weight loss for foods”.
The real issue
This clear breach of no less than eight of the CAP Code’s rules, not to mention those of the Competition & Markets Authority and current guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) brings to light everything that is wrong with Influencer Marketing: fake claims, a lack of transparency and highly misleading and dangerous to the young and the vulnerable.
A recent analysis by The Telegraph revealed that complaints to the ASA against influencers had greatly increased – 793 in the first half of 2019 compared to just 352 for the whole of 2018 which shows that a backlash against influencer marketing is emerging. This together with calls from NHS England and medical experts to ban posts promoting dangerous diets and products could eventually lead to the government having to step in and legislate to prevent abuse of the rules. Denmark is one country leading the way with its plans to regulate influencer marketing after a popular social media star posted a suicide note on Instagram.
What should you do?
What do you need to do to avoid a ruling? The rules about social media endorsements and influencer marketing are quite clear.
- Always make it totally clear and unambiguous that something is being advertised or there is a relationship between the brand and the influencer
- Use #Advert or “advertisement feature”, or “free gifts from…” “Paid Partnership”, Brand ambassador for… – anything that clearly states the commercial arrangement.
- Disclose that an item has been gifted or loaned, or that there has been payment for the ad
- Ensure that the first thing audiences see clarifies that the post is an ad – don’t bury it at the end
- Avoid just tagging brands or using ambiguous language like “thank you” or “made possible by”
- Hashtags must be clear! Not #sp #collab or part of the brand name e.g. #gucciad
- Don’t bury hashtags in amongst lots of others or disclose commercial relationship in your profile page only
- Be diligent and take responsibility for checking whatever your influencers post about your brand – whether or not you have editorial control
- Have a proper contract with your influencer and be clear about the need for them to be transparent
To find out more about the rules you can view the CMA’s comprehensive guidance here as well as a guide by the ASA. Alternatively, PromoVeritas can help you with any aspect of running social media campaigns right, simply contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.