Influencers are certainly not strangers to being respectfully called out when it comes to the attention of the ASA that they are not following the guidelines that are put in place by the ASA and the CAP Code to ensure that ads and promotions are correctly disclosed.
The ASA has introduced a new policy stating that it will be listing repeat rule-breakers on its website, with further sanctions to be considered if the problems continue.
Rupa Shah, founder of Hashtag Ad Consulting, is an expert in educating influencers as well as social and digital agencies on how to comply with the ASA and CAP guidelines. She explains why is it so important for the guidelines to be adhered to:
“It’s important for influencers to follow the rules because their value to brands is based on their close relationship with their followers; breaking the rules breaches that trust, particularly when it comes to non-disclosure, and it can irretrievably damage those relationships and result in loss of followers.
An influencer who appears inauthentic, has a cavalier attitude towards the rules and who drags a brand into the negative publicity that inevitably follows an ASA ruling, is simply not going to be an attractive partner in any future collaborations.”
Time to name and shame?
In an ideal world, influencers and social agencies that are required to adhere to advertising guidelines would do so with ease, clearly disclosing whether a post is paid or whether they are promoting a gifted product. But in instances where the rules are swerved or misunderstood, it is necessary to approach those who need to revisit the guidelines.
In many cases, those who are reported to have broken the guidelines are given warnings and opportunities to fix the issue, but for those who are repeatedly reported, public exposure can alert them to the severity of the issue.
Rupa says: “Naming and shaming is a well-established sanction that CAP has traditionally applied to brands who repeatedly breach the CAP Code. Although this influencer-specific page is a new development, it’s clear that using an optimised page to highlight repeat advertising offenders is effective.
From an industry perspective, it’s frustrating to see the same names appear constantly in this context but I have no objection to the ethics of this approach. These influencers repeatedly misled their followers and must be more transparent about their branded content. I feel the question is more about whether this will be an effective sanction and whether the industry as a whole deserves to be tarred by the inevitable media criticism.”
It is clear that despite rules being laid out clearly, and public naming and shaming being put in place for repeat offenders, there is still a lack of compliance amongst certain influencers. We will continue to follow the ways that the ASA and CAP approach sanctions for breaching of guidelines in the influencer industry, hoping that we will see a future of full compliance.