There’s no arguments that the world of content- particularly social media posts themselves- has long been something of a grey area in terms of what is and isn’t professionally acceptable in the eyes of the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), which has taken big steps towards trying to ensure everyone is clearly marked posts as commercial (i.e paid for or sponsored) when they are sponsored.
We’ve discussed this matter several times before on these pages, not least with regard to brand ambassadors. Celebrities, from TV stars to YouTube big guns, have been pulled up several times before for posting to their feeds comments and statements that, to the untrained eye, would appear to be their own opinion, but after closer investigation are revealed to be tied up in a contract, or at least agreement, with the brand they are posting about.
Enter Geordie Shore’s Marnie Simpson, and her agency reps, Unleashed PR, the latest names to cross the line amid a Snapchat marketing fail. The ASA have just issued a stern warning to both parties on the grounds of Snapchat posts that were not clearly marked as advertisements, thus breaching what’s known as the CAP Code. In the first instance, Simpson posted a reference to a 50% sale for tooth-whitening product Diamond Whites, a brand she has a well reported relationship with, the second was a picture of her right eye, with a heart emoji, and the line ‘mrs grey coming soon’- a tie in with a new range of contact lenses, iSpyEyes, which she recently launch.
What the ASA said
The ASA ruled that not enough effort had been made to clarify that these posts were in fact adverts. Both companies have said they will look at using #ad, or similar, in the future, but this is now the third formal ruling on non-disclosure this year, following two in 2016 and three in 2015, with a further 17 cases ‘informally resolved’ across both years. A total of 4,000 complaints have been received by the ASA because of situations such as this in the same time period.
“Some people looking at it might have guessed that they were ads, but equally some people might have thought that they were just editorial content, and her own opinion, and it’s that ambiguity that we don’t think is acceptable. So in both cases we said it should have been much clearer,” said Jessica Tye, of the ASA, in a 5Live interview yesterday.
“We have seen increasing compliance from advertisers in this area in terms of identification of online marketing, so on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Twitter. We actually see quite a lot of self-policing, people will see a post from a social incluencer and they will call them out on the platform.”
What we say
This shows is that, firstly, the powers that be now take this kind of thing seriously, and brands really need to be aware by now that they shouldn’t even consider this sort of campaign move unless they are absolutely sure they comply with regulations. After all, the publicity generated by being reprimanded is potentially damaging to both the brand and the ambassador or spokesperson, especially when public trust in advertising, and media transparency, is at an all-time low.
Looking for more advice on PR, social media, and marketing? Why not get in contact or submit a brief to inject a little ingeniousness into your brand.