ASA issues fresh warning to social media influencers who flout ad rules

By Becky Bargh | Published: 18-Mar-2021

Advertising watchdog threatens to name and shame non-compliant brands and influencers after report reveals widespread breaching

The UK’s advertising watchdog has warned social media stars that they could be put ‘on notice’ if they flout advertising rules online.

The crackdown comes after a report by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found fewer than expected influencers were sticking to advertising regulations.

The research into 122 UK-based influencers assessing Instagram Stories, posts, IGTV and reels to check compliance rates discovered one in four Stories were advertising but a mere 35% were clearly labelled as such.

Of the sectors monitored, beauty had the lion's share of ad numbers online, but just 45% were compliant with advertising guidelines.

Meanwhile, in 2020 there was a 55% uptick in complaints received about influencers across various platforms, up to 3,144 for the year, 61% of which were about ad disclosures on Instagram, the research noted.

“There’s simply no excuse not to make clear to the public when positive messages in posts have been paid-for by a brand,” said ASA chief executive Guy Parker.

“While some influencers have got their houses in order, our monitoring shows how much more there is to do.

“We’ve given influencers and brands fair warning. Now we're targeting our follow-up monitoring and preparing for enforcement action.”

ASA did not name and shame any influencers specifically, however, it said that a number of influential figures and brands have been contacted and put ‘on notice’, making them subject to future spot checks.

If rules are not adhered to, the group has said it will sanction non-compliant companies and influencers and make an example of them via a dedicated page on its website.

It added that the rules on advertising online are clear: ‘it [a post] must be obvious to consumers before they read, ‘like’ or otherwise interact with a social media post’.

In February, the ASA also ordered beauty brands and influencers to stop using “misleading” filters in social media campaigns.

It said cosmetics companies should not apply filters to a product that exaggerates its efficacy and those that do will be removed and prohibited from appearing again.

As part of the fresh push to steer beauty brands away from over-egging their products’ effectiveness, Skinny Tan and Tanologist Tan were found guilty of breaching these rules earlier this year.

Skinny Tan’s advert with Elly Norris used the ‘Perfect Tan’ filter, while Tanologist Tan’s campaign with Cinzia Baylis-Zullo had applied the ‘Yourbeauty by giogiopivaa_’ filter.

The new guidance on production techniques has been enforced on the back of the #filterdrop campaign, which kick-started last year by make-up artist Sasha Pallari.

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