The ASA has continued its focus on influencer marketing and has published a report on influencer compliance with ad disclosure rules on Instagram. The ASA analysed over 24,000 individual stories, posts, IGTV and reels across 122 UK-based influencers and found a lack of compliance with rules on disclosure of advertising.
Key findings included:
- Inconsistent disclosure across stories – when an ad spans multiple consecutive stories, unless it is absolutely clear that this is part of the same posting, each story must be disclosed as an ad.
- Inconsistent disclosures across stories, IGTV, reels, and posts – the ASA noted that influencers may disclose an ad in one feature, but not in corresponding content.
- Visibility of ad labels – where content was labelled as an ad, the labels were often in small font or otherwise difficult to see and read.
- Affiliate content is still an ad – the use of #affiliate or similar with no additional information is not enough to meet disclosure requirements.
- Own-brand ads – influencers should not rely on their bios or past posts alone when advertising their own products.
The ASA has focused a lot on influencer marketing in recent years, no doubt due to the significant increase in complaints. In 2020, it recorded a 55% increase in complaints received about influencers from across platforms compared to 2019. Almost two-thirds of those complaints in 2020 were about ad disclosure on Instagram, hence the focus of this platform. The ASA has made efforts to assist influencers in meeting their obligations, including publishing a guide and cheat sheet, but problems persist.
It is likely that this will continue to be a focus for the ASA and they have already written to influencers and brands who were monitored in this report stating that they will continue with future monitoring and spot checks. The CMA is also conducting its own work in this area including working with Facebook (the owner of Instagram) to combat "hidden" advertising. Influencers and brands working with them should consider these findings carefully and ensure they have robust procedures in place to meet their compliance obligations.
Some practical points include:
- Ensuring that all marketing communications include #ad or "ad" in a prominent position in all posts and that such tags can be clearly read.
- Avoid using more ambiguous terms such as #affiliate or #sponsored unless further information is provided.
- Make use of platform tools designed to assist with disclosure.
- Where appropriate, take care with contract drafting and maintain robust approval and monitoring processes.