Home Content marketing Ads watchdog steps up penalties against persistent influencers who break rules

Ads watchdog steps up penalties against persistent influencers who break rules

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Brands could face similar penalties in the future, the advertising regulator has warned, as it lambastes six former Love Island stars for failing to disclose when their social media posts are ads.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is removing Instagram ads exposing six rule-breaking influencers who have consistently failed to disclose ads on their own accounts, despite explicit warnings.

The regulator’s rules state that all social media advertising must be clearly flagged and labeled as such to protect consumers. This can be achieved with a tag such as “#ad” in the image or caption.

In June 2021, the ASA created a webpage naming and shaming influencers who broke the rules. Francesca Allen, Jess Gale, Eve Gale, Belle Hassan, Jodie Marsh and Anna Vakili were among the influencers added to the site.

Since all six have failed to improve the disclosure of their advertisements, the ASA is now stepping up its penalties against them.

The ASA advertisements read: “[Name] was sanctioned by the UK advertising regulator for failing to report adverts on this platform. Be aware that the products and services recommended or featured by this influencer may have been paid for by these brands. Our Non-Compliant Social Media Influencer page on asa.org.uk is regularly updated to inform consumers of those who break these rules.

Other sanctions are also being considered, including working with social media platforms to have content from non-compliant influencers removed, or referring influencers to statutory bodies such as Trading Standards for consideration of legal action. , including possible fines.

“For the minority of influencers who repeatedly fail to disclose their paid posts, it’s important that their social media followers are informed,” says ASA Director of Advertising Policy and Practice Shahriar Coupal.

“In a new front of law enforcement activity, we are using targeted ads to highlight violations by six social media personalities to the same audience they seek to influence. When we see the necessary changes to their disclosure practices, we will cancel the advertisements. But, where non-compliance persists, we will seek more direct forms of enforcement.

Collectively, the six influencers — five of whom are former Love Island contestants — boast nearly 5 million Instagram followers. They’ve worked with brands including Amazon, Jack Wills, Dorothy Perkins, Boohoo, Boux Avenue and Fashion Nova, although there’s yet to be any suggestion that these brands themselves are guilty of breaking the rules.

The ASA has chosen not to report any marks at this time, but in the future marks may face similar penalties. Last year, the ASA promised to “take action” against brands that also repeatedly fail to disclose ads.

The ASA first warned brands and influencers in March 2021, after finding that only 35% of ads in Instagram Stories were clearly labeled and identifiable as such. At the time, he described the level of non-compliance with the rules as “unacceptable”.

In 2020, the ASA saw a 55% increase in complaints received about influencers across all platforms compared to 2019, from 1,979 to 3,144 individual complaints. Almost two-thirds of these complaints in 2020 were about the disclosure of ads on Instagram.

In addition to influencers, the regulator is also now cracking down on “misleading” environmental claims and greenwashing in advertising, banning an Alpro ad in October over unsubstantiated claims that its oat milk product was “good for the planet”.