UK influencers must own up to paid posts, 16 sign up to greater transparency
today Jan 24, 2019
As we read more and more market reports saying consumers are influenced by celebrity/blogger posts to buy particular products, the UK’s Competition & Markets Authority is cracking down on influencers who don’t own up clearly enough to whether they were paid to post or given the item they’re praising as a gift.
And it’s taking a dual hard-soft approach to this with warning letters sent out to many influencers but also 16 big names being signed up to be the front people for a newer, more transparent approach to social media posting.
The 16 have promised to act as role models and clearly label their social media posts in line with consumer protection law that says payment - whether that comes in the form of money, gifts or even product loans from brands - must be identified.
In many cases until now, large numbers of influencers have either failed to mention payment or have done so, but not prominently enough.
The CMA said it has agreement from social media influencers with big followings, including Alexa Chung, Ellie Goulding and Rita Ora, to publicly commit to following the rules, which it said would act as an example for others.
The other 13 are Mario Falcone, Alexandra "Binky" Felstead, Holly Hagan, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Michelle Keegan, Iskra Lawrence, Millie Mackintosh, Megan McKenna, Chloe Sims, Zoe "Zoella" Sugg, Louise Thompson, Dina Torkia, and James Chapman.
The CMA approached the 16 on the list because they had previously published posts that didn’t follow the rules but also because they have large followings and were therefore seen as people who could have an impact on the posting behaviour of their peers.
If the rules aren’t followed, the CMA can, in theory, apply for a court order that could mean a fine or even a jail term, although the latter is seen as unlikely.
The CMA has also sent warning letters to other influencers to commit to full transparency and is working with the Advertising Standards Authority on the problem, even though the ASA’s remit doesn’t cover many social media posts unless they’re under the control of a specific brand.
Industry watchers said that owning up to payment shouldn’t be a problem. Katy Leeson, managing director of Social Chain, told Campaign: “Influencer channels remain Gen Z’s preferred way to view brand-led content, and youth demographics, in particular, remain intrinsically loyal to social media stars and continue to buy into what they promote. Contrary to popular belief, marking posts as adverts doesn’t hinder their performance, provided the brand partnership is authentic and the content is relevant to the influencer’s audience.”
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