I think I have seen comments regarding the new ASA guidelines for influencers around 3 million times in the last month. It’s created a massive fear among the Instagram community I follow, for myself included. So much so, that I even labelled a free event I went to as an “AD” for fear of being arrested the following morning by the Instagram ad police for labelling it incorrectly. I have trawled through the recent CMA guidelines and the new version of the ASA guidelines and written my interpretation; but please see it as just that – MY interpretation. If you do any form of Instagram marketing, be sure to download the guidelines and have a read.
Firstly, let me start by pointing out they are guidelines – not rules – and therefore they are open to some degree of interpretation. Their goal is to stop individuals on Instagram feeling misled by the content they are viewing.
Now, I totally agree with transparency. Influencers should have some guidelines to ensure it is clear to others what is a product they have genuinely spent their money on and what isn’t. We work hard for our money, and it is only fair that we are fully informed before we go out and buy something declared as “the best thing ever”.
The whole gist of the guidelines is that you need to make it clear if you have been paid OR rewarded in any way for the content you are showing; and this included being gifted an item. ASA state it “must be obviously identifiable” as paid or rewarded. To me, this means being clearly stated, E.g. putting “AF” for an affiliate link may not actually be transparent. Whilst I know what this means, others may not – it needs to be totally clear.
ASA agree that writing “AD” at the beginning of a post is best practice, to avoid it being hidden in hashtags. Content is considered an advert when the brand being promoted have had any input in the content. This includes them approving what is written, giving statements of buzz words to includes, requiring so many posts, specifying days of posting, or themes of post.
If there is payment but no control, it does fall under a slightly different regulation. However, influencers should still make it clear that is is a paid ad. They could write “ad feature” or just “ad”.
Sponsored Post has been taken out of the guidelines. This used to be if you were paid for a post but received no editorial control from the brand. This was likely removed due to its regular misuse; people would often use it for what should have been labelled “ad”. I believe this may be because many people say they get a decrease in engagement when posting an ad so it was a way of (wrongly) making it seem less “ad-like”. But I must say, this decrease in engagement for an ad has never applied for me – you guys are awesome. Other statements such as “in partnership with” could also possibly be a way of misleading followers.
The area of the guidelines that seems to have caused a frenzy is the gifting part. Gifting technically is payment, however it isn’t necessarily an ad. If you are gifted an item but have no obligation of sharing or editorial control over the content produced, then this is not an ad. However, in line with transparency it is recommended that you do make it clear it was a gifted item – you could put that it was sent to you, it was free, or use #gifted.
With all this said, coming from an influencer point of you I say this – please support those that you follow when they do advertisements. If you enjoy their content, then don’t be put off by “AD” – give it a like. When my paid content does well, it makes me happy inside!
If you have anything to add, please comment below!