The UK advertising watchdog’s latest report calls for brands and content creators to clearly label social media paid-for posts as it found that members of the public are still struggling to identify sponsored posts. It suggests that upfront disclosures such as #ad are “necessary as a minimum.”The ASA’s research of the influencer marketing space dispels the argument that labels aren’t needed, and highlights the importance of influencers being clear with their followers.The advertising body already has guidelines around how influencer content should be disclosed when it comes to sponsored posts and those that include gifted products. However, the ASA has spent the last 18 months investigating the influencer marketing industry to gauge whether people recognise when a social media post from an influencer is an ad and to continue their work on educating brands, influencers and agencies about how to stick to the rules.

A crucial requirement

In light of the findings, both the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the ASA recommend using #ad to disclose paid-for content. This allows users to make an “informed judgement about the commercial intent behind it.”As part of the study, 1,600 participants were split into four groups and were shown seven examples of social media posts that were categorised as influencer advertising. The groups were presented with different versions of the same post with the wording and labels changed to see which the respondents identify as a sponsored post. “The research tells us that all of us can find it hard to identify when an influencer is advertising, so it’s crucial that ads are labelled clearly,” said ASA chief executive Guy Parker.Following the research, the ASA has said it will “now consider carefully” the outcomes of this work. They will share the findings with other regulators to facilitate ongoing discussions about how best to make sure ads are obviously identifiable as such.The ASA warned influencers that don’t disclose ads were eroding trust in the wider influencer community. Therefore, influencers and brands that don’t disclose ads could run the risk of potential investigation and enforcement action. Earlier this year, a variety of influencers including Alexa Chung and Ellie Goulding said they would be more transparent in labelling sponsored posts.
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