UK's advertisement regulator said it will name and shame Instagram influencers on its website if they fail to comply with its rules of clearly signposting when their content is an advertisement.
The Advertising Standards Authority reviewed the Instagram accounts of 122 UK-based influencers.
One in four of the pieces of content it looked at on Instagram, owned by Facebook (FB) turned out to be advertising, but only 35% were clearly labelled and obviously identifiable as such.
“The level of non-compliance is unacceptable,” ASA said, adding that its research shows the difficulty that consumers have in distinguishing certain types of online ads from surrounding content.
ASA CEO Guy Parker said “there’s simply no excuse not to make clear to the public when positive messages in posts have been paid-for by a brand. 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. We’re now targeting our follow-up monitoring and preparing for enforcement action," he added.
In 2020, the ASA said there were 3,144 individual complaints about influencers across social media platforms, an increase of 55% year-on-year. And 61% of these were about ad disclosure on Instagram.
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According to the ASA’s rule, it must be made abundantly clear to consumers before they interact with a social media post if what they are engaging with is advertising. In most cases, the use of #ad is the clearest way of communicating the commercial nature of social media content.
ASA said it notified influencers and brands that it will carry out spot checks to see if they are complying with its rules. If not, it will publish their names on a dedicated page on its website as well as “promote their non-compliance through our own targeted paid search ads.”
Neena Bhati, head of campaigns at consumer group Which?, said “influencers and the brands they work with should know the rules and must not muddy the waters between paid-for advertising and authentic endorsements."
"The ASA must continue to keep track of this issue and work with other regulators to take strong action where necessary, sending a clear message that deceiving consumers for cash on social media will not be tolerated," she added.
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