The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) and the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) have issued new guidance targeted at Irish influencers and how they label paid for promotions within their social media posts.
The comprehensive guidance addresses paid promotion, items ‘gifted’ by brands or PR agencies, and the advertising of own-brand products and services.
The joint guidance has been developed following extensive research, including experiments with eye-tracking technology and a survey of 500 social media users. A number of influencers were also asked to review the new guidance and provide feedback to the CCPC. It also comes at a time when consumer agencies throughout Europe have begun a coordinated sweep of influencer accounts to assess their compliance with advertising and marketing rules.
According to Kevin O’Brien, member of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission: “Our research found that consumers consistently overestimated their ability to identify influencer advertising. This guidance will support influencers to comply with their obligations under the law so that consumers know when they are being advertised to. It is in everybody’s interest for influencers to be honest with their audience and transparent about their advertising. CCPC research found that many consumers felt misled after purchasing an item on the advice of an influencer, and that levels of trust in influencers generally are very low. Clear labelling benefits everyone. It is an offence to mislead a consumer, and influencers who fail to comply with Ireland’s consumer protection legislation may be subject to enforcement action up to and including prosecution.”
“Consumers shouldn’t have to question if and when they are being advertised to – it should be instantly clear. The guidance takes account of developments in influencer marketing and provides clear and straightforward guidance for influencers and brands they work with, on how to correctly and clearly label and disclose advertising content on their social media channels, to ensure that consumers are not misled,” adds Orla Twomey, chief executive, ASAI.
The new guidelines include the obligatory use of the hashtag #Ad which must be instantly visible to consumers. In addition, posts about own brands must also be labelled as advertising. A number of different hashtags (#IWorkWith, #OwnBrand) are currently used by influencers to indicate advertising. For the avoidance of confusion, all commercial content should now be labelled #Ad (or #Fógra for Irish-language posts).
Earlier that year the ASAI published research that revealed over half of those surveyed were bothered by both the lack of transparency in influencer marketing and not being able to distinguish content from advertising. These findings echoed similar results to that of the CCPC’s research last December, which reinforced the need for this joint guidance, Twomey adds.
“The fundamental requirement for any advertising to be identifiable as such has been in existence for over 40 years. This new joint guidance will continue to improve compliance in influencer marketing, and consumer awareness and understanding in this area,” she says.