Dusk image of surrounding buildings and skyscraper.

The ASA’s Love Island “cheat sheet”

Published on 07 November 2019

At the end of July, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) published a cheat sheet for Love Island contestants, celebs and influencers with guidance on how to declare ads on social media.

The question

What’s the ASA’s latest guidance on influencer marketing? 

The key takeaway

The ASA’s new “cheat sheet” firmly underlines the need for influencers to be open and upfront with their followers about when they are advertising. Honesty and authenticity are vital – and the ASA encourages influencers and brands to do their research and to be vigilant whenever making sponsored posts so that they do not fall foul of advertising rules. 

The background

The CAP Code defines advertising broadly for social media influencers. For example, advertising can be:

  • affiliate marketing: being paid for click-throughs.
  • advertorials: being paid or otherwise rewarded for a post by someone who has editorial “control” over the content.
In August 2018, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched an investigation into concerns that social media influencers were not properly declaring when they are being paid for advertising on their own channels. The CMA argued that this could mislead consumers. Following on from this, in January 2019, 16 high-profile influencers including Ellie Goulding and Rita Ora agreed to change how they post on social media. They assured the CMA that they would clearly state when they have been paid or otherwise rewarded for a post that endorses a particular product or brand. While the relevant laws have been in place for some time, the increasing usage of social media platforms for advertising has led to a need for updated guidance from regulatory bodies. 

The development 

Love Island is a phenomenon, with 3.6m viewers tuning in live for the most recent series’ finale, and millions more watching it on catch-up. Most of the show’s stars go on to monetise their new found fame as influencers across social media. The ASA therefore decided it was timely to partner with ITV to provide succinct guidelines for Love Island contestants and other social media celebrities for declaring ads on social media.

The cheat sheet covers the following points:
  • Authenticity: influencers should retain their authenticity by letting their followers know when they’re advertising
  • Brands: when an influencer is paid by a brand to promote their products or services (either with money or “gifted stuff”), then they are advertising
  • Control: where a brand controls an influencer’s message, the influencer has to declare the post as an ad
  • Discount Codes: if influencers are being rewarded for discount codes or affiliate links, they will need to say it is an ad
  • Enforcement: the guidance makes clear that both the ASA and the CMA will actively enforce transparency
  • Followers: influencers should be clear with their followers. As the cheat sheet says, "they’re not mind readers.”
  • Gifts: freebies and gifts that brands have given to influencers to promote to their followers count as ads
  • Hashtag: influencers who choose to use hashtags as a way of showing a post is an ad should make sure it’s “clearly visible upfront”.
Why is this important? 

As the ASA outlines in the cheat sheet, influencers are quite often trading off their authenticity and honesty towards their followers. If their followers feel they are being misled, then this could damage influencers’ personal brands, and impact the trust consumers have in advertising more widely. 

Any practical tips?

The cheat sheet should be welcome and tying it in with Love Island was a cunning move by the ASA to get extra attention on the topic.  But equally the cheat sheet is pretty limited. There is much more extensive advice available online, including CAP’s “Influencer’s Guide to Making Clear Ads Are Ads” and the CMA’s “Social Media Endorsements: Being Transparent With Your Followers”. These provide much more in-depth guidance.