The ASA found that Ms Odudu had a contract with Alpro to publish a number of social media posts over a period of time and concluded that since the ad was presented in a similar ‘voice’ to her other tweets it wasn’t clear to consumers that the tweet was in fact a marketing communication and not her own opinion. In addition, under the terms of the contract, Alpro were the sole owner of all copyright for material created throughout the promotion and therefore responsible for Ms Odudu’s social media messages and therefore liable for the breach. The outcome resulted in a lot of negative press for the Alpro brand.
CAP Code rules 2.1 and 2.4 specify that marketers must clearly mark advertorials or paid for marketing. However, a lot of brands don’t seem to be aware of the rules or care that they are breaking the rules. And things are getting tougher….the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) recently proved that they are willing lay down the law against advertisers who mislead consumers. They secured an undertaking from marketing agency Social Chain who were found to have run 19 campaigns that were not disclosed as advertising across Twitter, Instagram and YouTube accounts with a combined reach of 4m followers. The CMA also wrote to the 15 brands and 43 ‘social media personalities’ involved warning them that advertising that is not clearly labelled is a breach of consumer protection law and could result in a prosecution. Social Chain agreed undertakings to ensure all future advertising that it posts or arranges will be clearly labelled.
The problem is even greater in the United States where a single 140 character tweet can be worth tens of thousands of dollars to celebrities such as Justin Bieber or Kim Kardashian. An investigation by consumer non-profit organisation Truth in Advertising has found hundreds of instances where Kardashian family members had posted about brands such as Puma, Calvin Klein and Balmain to a combined audience of over 300m without disclosing they were paid for ads.
The Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection take a dim view of these activities stating that ‘consumers have the right to know if reviewers are providing their own opinions or paid sales pitches” and have issued consent orders to brands such as Warner Brothers and Sony which carry the force of law and can result in civil penalties.
The bottom line is that although it is not illegal to pay people to endorse products, the brands and media agencies involved need to make sure that the consumer knows when something is paid for otherwise they could be breaking the law.
So what can you do to avoid getting your brand into trouble? Here are our five top tips for brands when it comes to social media.
To find out more about ensuring your campaign complies with the law, talk to PromoVeritas. We are global experts at helping to shape and implement promotions for all types of brands all over the world, legally and fairly. Call Gemma Cutting on +44(0)3325 6000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org