Influencers Get #Ad Warning From UK Regulator, Again

It may have seemed like just any other rap on the knuckles for another wannabe celeb known for appearing on a reality show, in this case "Love Island." However, the Advertising Standard Authority (ASA) hauling Molly Mae Hague over the coals raised a very interesting point.

The regulator's stance on influencer marketing is well known -- and although it is well publicised, we still keep seeing stars falling foul of the requirements to simply include an #ad to a paid-for post.

In fact, at around this time a year ago that Rita Ora and Ellie Goulding were among 16 celebrities who promised to reform their ways and make clear when they were paid to wear something or gush lovingly about a manufacturer's product.

In some ways, this news appeared as if it were a virtuous act by the celebrities involved when, effectively, it was them agreeing to obey the rules surrounding influencer marketing from which they were pocketing a huge amount of money.

Fast forward to this month, and we have the case of a "Love Island" contestant I can admit to never having heard of but who has 3.6m followers on Instagram. She is an interesting test case because a picture of her wearing clothes by Pretty Little Things, with a message that she was ready to go out, was what landed her in trouble. 

The sin? She is sponsored by the business as a brand ambassador, and so ASA upheld a complaint that she should have been clearer. When I say a complaint, I really do mean just one complaint, by the way.

Now here's the crunch -- her defence was that the picture was not a post that was paid for -- it was more of an organic pic that celebs post about what they're wearing. The argument was backed up by pointing out that she names her work for Pretty Little Things in her bio.

I don't know about you, but I've seen lots of celebrities use this as a catch-all alternative to adding an #ad to posts. I tend to look more at sports stars rather than reality tv people, and I have noticed many who talk about products and in particular, sporting odds with no clear tag on a post but rather a mention in their biog they are an ambassador for a particular brand or betting business.

I've always thought that this probably wasn't enough because not everyone's going to read the bio and often a celebrity will find their post is shared -- after all, that is the nature of social media. When reposted by followers, there obviously is no access to the original bio's information and disclaimers within the post itself. 

It always struck me as these stars skating on very thin ice -- and at the first time of asking, ASA agrees. 

This will have ramifications across social media. From the UK regulator, the news is very clear. You really do have to put an #ad, or some other form of clear label, on every paid-for post.

Relying on a reference in a bio simply isn't enough. It's surprising that some stars think it is, but there you have it -- the regulator has ruled and many influencers will have to mend their ways or find themselves on the wrong side of a headline that will seriously tarnish their credibility.

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