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ASA ruling on “celebrity” status – ThisMamaLife

Published on 07 November 2019

What number of Instagram followers constitutes a “celebrity” status?

The key takeaway

According to the ASA, if an individual has 30,000 followers, that’s enough of an indication that an individual has “celebrity” status. This is especially important for marketing medicines, as under the CAP Code, marketers must not use health professionals or celebrities to endorse medicines.

The ad

A post on ThisMamaLife’s Instagram account, seen in February 2019, featured an image of the blogger in bed smiling. In the background of the image was a packet of Phenergan Night Time tablets. The caption stated “[AD] Sleep. Who needs more of it? I’m really lucky in that I don’t actually need a lot of sleep to get by and manage to cram all sorts into my evening, being the night owl I am … I tried out Phenergan Night Time, which really helped. It is a pharmacy only, short term solution to insomnia for adults which works by inducing a sleepy effect thanks to its active ingredient, promethazine hydrochloride, helping you to sleep through the night. #AD #sleep”.

The complaint

The ASA challenged whether the ad used a celebrity to endorse a medicine.

The response

Sanofi (the makers of Phenergen Night Time) said that ThisMamaLife (a working mum blogger) had a niche following which was unlikely to influence a medicinal decision taken by a consumer and that ThisMamaLife was not a celebrity. 

The decision 

Rule 12.18 of the CAP Code states that marketers must not use health professionals or celebrities to endorse medicines. The ASA therefore had to assess whether the blogger was a celebrity for the purposes of the CAP Code and whether she had endorsed a medicine. 

The ASA considered that ThisMamaLife’s 30,000 followers indicated that she had the attention of a significant number of people. As she had attention of a large audience, the ASA considered her to be a celebrity for the purposes of the CAP Code.

The ASA considered that consumers would understand the ad to mean that ThisMamaLife had used and recommended the product. On that basis, the ASA considered that ThisMamaLife had endorsed the medicine.

Why is this important?

For the first time brands are now aware of what amount of followers are required for an influencer to be considered as a celebrity, or at least what constitutes a celebrity in the eyes of the ASA. 

Any practical tips?

Don’t forget about the ban on using health professionals, or celebrities to endorse medicines - see CAP Code Rule 12. If you work with influencers in this space, you must (a) select them carefully (ie no professionals or celebs) and (b) keep an active eye on them and their number of followers. While 30,000 followers was enough in this case, this is not a minimum threshold. It's possible that a much lower number could still achieve ASA "celebrity" status.