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Asos and Zoella hit with ad ban over 'unclear' promotional Instagram post

The Drum 21 Apr 2020 11:00
The decision from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) underscores the nuances faced by both brands and influencers / Instagram

Asos and influencer Zoe Sugg (AKA Zoella) have been issued with a warning from the UK's advertising regulator for failing to correctly signpost a paid-for Instagram post.

The decision from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) underscores the nuances faced by both brands and influencers when badging sponsored content within the confines of different social media platforms.

Last July, Sugg posted an Instagram Story from her official account which featured an image of her wearing a floral maxi dress. The accompanying text stated: "Lots of you loving the dress I’m wearing in my newest photos... it's from [Miss Selfidge]. Swipe up to shop… ([I've also popped it on my @liketoknowit profile if you’d rather shop straight from the app).”

Additional text at the bottom right-hand side of the image, obscured by Instagram's direct message icon stated: "*affiliate".

The regulator agreed and banned the ad, saying that neither Sugg nor Asos has made clear their commercial intent in publishing the photo.

The brand said it made it clear to all of its influencers that disclosure labels needed to be "clear and prominent" and believed "*affliate" was appropriate in this context as a signpost. It also underscored how it didn't have any advance knowledge of, or direct input or control over, the Instagram story in question.

Sugg's limited company responded on her behalf, saying it believed the post to comply with the ASA's guidelines on affiliate links by including the identifier 'affiliate' on the relevant section of the Instagram story.

Both Sugg and Asos referred to research conducted for the ASA by Ipsos Mori on the labelling of influencer advertising, published last year. They pointed specifically to an example ad from Twitter which was tested in the research, where a higher proportion of participants identified an example with '#advert' upfront and '#affiliate' at the end as being ‘definitely an ad’ (48%) than a post with only #affiliate at the end (44%).

The ASA, however, disagreed.

"We had regard to the Ipsos Mori report as providing a useful guide to the role that labels and other factors played in helping people identify when social media posts by influencers included advertising, whilst also being aware of its limitations when considering an individual ad.

The regulator went on: "We concluded that the ad was not obviously identifiable as such and did not make clear its commercial intent."

Following feedback from influencers and ad agencies, the ASA issued an abridged version of its guide to ad labelling and disclosure on social media platforms earlier this year.

The ASA’s message to influencers, and the brands using their social media feeds to promote their products, was simple: "Make it clear… there isn’t really much more to it than that."

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