Former Love Island star Molly-Mae Hague is the latest reality star to be reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for breaching the CAP code. In September last year, the Love Island reality star shared a picture on Instagram of herself wearing a coat from online retailer Pretty Little Thing, of which she is a brand ambassador. The image caption read: “A/W, I’m ready [brown leaf emoji]” and tagged the online retailer however did not write #ad to disclose the partnership. The official Instagram account for Pretty Little Thing was also tagged in the picture. Pretty Little Thing claimed that the post was an “organic” feed post by Hague and had no control over the post. The company also noted that all paid posts should be identifiable via “paid partnership with PrettyLittleThing” tag. That said, the ASA ruled the post should not appear in its current form again as the complaint argued that the post broke the CAP Code because it was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication. The ASA recognised that on Hague’s Instagram profile, her bio stated “Ambassador @prettylittlething” but because her account was visible to the public, any posts she published could appear in search results and those posts could be viewed in isolation of her profile. Therefore, users could view the post without necessarily seeing the statement about her brand ambassadorship. “We noted that Ms Hague tagged @prettylittlething to the image, but we did not consider the content of the post made clear whether it was advertising, as opposed to, for example, genuinely independent editorial content,” the statement said. 

“We need to be mindful that this may cause issues for influencers and the authenticity of their posts and could oversaturate users’ feeds with #ad labels. Influencers should state an honest and conversational disclaimer which will make it lighter for their followers to receive. There needs to be absolute clarity on the rules for brand partnerships and how influencers need to declare content promoting brands they’ve previously worked for, otherwise, we’ll see more influencers make the same mistake as Molly-Mae,” commented Adam Williams, CEO of Takumi.

Therefore in the absence of a clear identifier, such as “#ad”, the ASA concluded that the post was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication to her 3.5 million followers and that it breached the Code.

Removing the grey areas

“In order to remove these grey areas, marketers, technology partners, influencers and governing bodies must continue to work closely together. Education and communication will be crucial to ensuring the fair and transparent industry that people want, including well-labelled ads.

If they don’t take responsibility for upholding guidelines, industry professionals, as well as consumers, may miss out on the true benefits of influencer marketing,” continued Williams.

In September, the ASA stated #ad is “necessary as a minimum” when disclosing paid-for content to help members of the public identify sponsored posts.

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