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What is the right hashtag to use when labelling an ad

Published on 21 January 2020

What is best, and worst, practice in labelling a post as an ad?

The key takeaway

The ASA and CMA have clarified what they are looking for in ad disclosures. They have also given practical tips to brands to ensure that their influencers obey the rules. 

The guidance

In order to comply with ad disclosure requirements under the CAP Code the ad “must be obviously identifiable as such”. If not already apparent from the context of the ad itself, this essentially means including an appropriately worded and prominently placed label. In a recent training seminar (October 2019) the ASA and CMA gave the following advice:

The following labels are always acceptable:
  • Ad, #Ad
  • Advert
  • Advertising, and
  • Advertisement.
The following are sometimes acceptable, but only in particular circumstances: 
  • Paid Promotion 
  • Brand Ambassador 
  • Free gift from [brand], or
  • On loan from [brand].
The following are risky:
  • Sponsored
  • Gifted, #gifted
  • Affiliate.
The following should not be used:
  • Spon, #Sp
  • Brought to you by …
  • In collaboration with …
  • Thanks to [brand], or
  • #client.
Why is this important?

The regulators are firming up on the #tags which they find acceptable. Essentially, though, the mantra stays the same – if in doubt and there’s a whiff of editorial control (in any form), use #ad. 

Any practical tips?

If you are an organisation working with an influencer it is best practice to: 
  • keep records of all the influencers you have gifted products to; 
  • provide clear guidance to influencers on what is expected of them in terms of adequate disclosure; 
  • ensure that there is a clear obligation on the influencer to properly disclose, as a term in the contract (if there is one); and 
  • actively monitor the social channels of those influencers to check that they are complying. 
Also, watch out for content being created in your brand’s name or on your brand’s behalf. The CMA seems to be moving to a position where the brand is responsible for compliance. If this bears out, then active monitoring should be a critical component of your compliance processes.

Finally, if you are working with an international influencer on a global campaign that isn’t specifically targeted at the UK, but the influencer has UK followers, it is worth noting the following:
  • there is no minimum number/percentage of UK followers that the influencer must have before the ASA/CMA would consider it to be within their remit; and
  • the key question is whether the marketing communication is directed to a UK audience – linking through to a UK webpage or having pricing in pounds will indicate that it is directed at a UK audience. If these factors are not present, it does not mean that the post has not been directed to a UK audience.