Influencer marketing and obvious brand references
ASA ruling on idesigngold.comThe question
What if an influencer’s post prominently features the brand within the content and caption (ie so it’s arguably easily identifiable as an ad)? Do you still need “#ad”?
The key takeaway
Featuring a brand within the content (for example, the logo) and the brand’s Instagram handle within the caption is not enough to identify a post as an ad. You still need a clear, prominent identifier such as “#ad”.
On 28 June 2019, a post on Katie Price’s Instagram account featured a video of her receiving a rose gold iPhone from idesigngold.com. In various shots throughout the video idesigngold’s branding could be seen on screen and on the product. The caption beneath the video stated, “Absolutely love my new @idesigngold phone I seem to be the only girl so far to have one check out the site x.”
One complainant challenged whether the ad was obviously identifiable as a marketing communication.
idesigngold did not respond to the ASA’s enquiries. Katie Price did respond and stated that idesigngold produced the video but that there was no written agreement between them - the product was a gift and idesigngold did not approve the content of the post.
The CAP Code states that marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such, and marketers and publishers must make clear that advertorials were marketing communications. The Code defines an advertorial as an advertisement feature, where the content is controlled by the marketer, and is disseminated in exchange for payment or other reciprocal relationship.
The ASA first assessed whether the post was an advertorial, and accordingly within the remit of the CAP Code. The ASA considered that because idesigngold provided the gifted item to Katie Price and had created the video, they had sufficient control over the content for the post to be considered a marketing communication within the remit of the Code.
The ASA then considered whether the advertorial was obviously identifiable as a marketing communication. The caption of the post included the handle @idesigngold and a call to “check out their site”, as well as the logo for idesigngold.com which appeared in the first few seconds of the video. The ASA found that those elements did not indicate to users that the post was a marketing communication before users engaged with its content. In the absence of a clear and prominent identifier at the beginning of the post, such as “#ad”, the ASA concluded that the post was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 2.1 and 2.4 (Recognition of marketing communications).
Why is this important?
Ads must be obviously identifiable as marketing communications, for example by including a clear and prominent identifier such as #ad. Additionally, this ruling serves as a reminder that brands have a responsibility to provide a response to the ASA’s enquiries.
Any practical tips?
Do not assume that because the content features your brand heavily (the brand logo, tagging the brand’s Instagram handle in the caption etc) that this sufficiently indicates to a user that an advertorial is a marketing communication. It must also include “#ad” or similar and this must be placed prominently within the caption (prominently being upfront rather than in a bio or a click away caption)