Hot on the heels of the launch of the Incorporated Society of British Advertising's (ISBA) new Code of Conduct for influencer marketing, (see here for my colleague Brinsley Dresden's article) the ASA has this week upheld a ruling against Hair Cybele and influencer Jennifer Metcalfe.
One member of the public questioned whether Jennifer's Instagram post promoting Hair Cybele was obviously identifiable as a marketing communication. The post featured an image of her holding the hair styling device with the caption 'Me again! Use code JEN70 for 70% off! @HAIRCYBELE Swipe up to view website.'
The ISBA's new code aims to 'raise standards, smooth relationships between industry participants and deliver transparency for consumers.' It states that influencers must follow regulatory guidance and always use 'the easily comprehensible' #ad in favour of less clear alternatives. The #ad should be immediately visible before a consumer engages with the content, for example, at the beginning of the caption. For signatories to the code, this technically sets a higher bar than the CAP Code itself, where #ad is used merely as an example rather than the only disclosure in town.
Despite it being arguably very obvious that this was a commercial communication (who posts about discount codes made up of their own name unless there's a commercial purpose??), the ASA ruled this post was a breach of CAP Code rules 2.1 and 2.3 - marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such and must not falsely claim or imply that the marketer is acting as a consumer. Marketing communications must make clear their commercial intent, if it is not obvious from the context.
It could be argued that consumers should be given a little more credit, but to avoid running into these issues influencers are encouraged to use '#ad' or 'Ad' at the start of their post to ensure they don't get on the wrong side of the ASA.
At its best, influencer marketing allows for authentic, personalised advertising, delivered in a transparent way. However, if done incorrectly, it can cause reputational damage to, and erode confidence in, both the influencer and the brand.