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Influencer Marketing: to #AD or not to #AD?

We listened to an interesting webinar a few weeks ago on the legal and ethical responsibilities involved in influencer marketing. It’s a minefield out there, the list of do’s and don’t are endless and it’s pretty confusing, even for us...

There was an insightful discussion between the two hosts, Jason Freeman, Legal Director at UK Competition and Markets Authority and Dale Barnett, Blog Manager at Influencer Intelligence and Fashion & Beauty Monitor on the story so far. 

It’s no secret that we are all influenced in some way, shape or form - social media is almost entirely responsible for this - even if you perhaps don’t realise it at the time. Your mind absorbs so much information when scrolling through your Instagram feed and it really does influence your day-to-day purchasing decisions, from where to go on holiday or which restaurant to visit - is it ‘grammable enough?!

Consumers follow particular influencers because of their shared interests and in return, they expect absolute transparency (influencers who buy their likes, we see you). Influencers should always be honest and only work with brands that are aligned with their values and beliefs so that a consumer’s purchasing decisions are not tainted or manipulated in any way.

As consumers become increasingly sceptical of influencers and their integrity, brands must be diligent to protect themselves, their ambassadors and affiliates. It’s so important to understand the ins and outs of the ASA regulations - after all, brands will ultimately be held responsible and could perhaps put themselves at risk of punitive action. 

It’s also the responsibility of the brand to also ensure that any influencers they are working with, whether they are being paid or not, are also complying with the regulations. The influencer is acting on behalf of the brand, therefore the brand will be held accountable by the ASA for misleading or missing information. Brands should outline what is expected of the influencer in their contract.

Any form of commercial partnership, whether the relationship is on an unpaid gifting basis, paid partnership, loan or affiliate link, must be marked #AD. This #AD must be the first thing in an Instagram caption, not hidden away at the bottom, as well as being prominent on any Instagram Stories in a bold font. #AD should be used as a minimum. #Gifted is not acceptable.

Brands should also note that any commercial partnership should also be disclosed by the influencer up to a year following the initial partnership - it’s important to keep a record of all influencer campaigns, regardless if payment was involved.

Concerns over transparency and misrepresentation still threaten the future of an industry built on a foundation of trust and word-of-mouth, so it’s important that we are all working together to ensure brands and influencers understand firstly why it's so important to comply, and how to comply in all future influencer campaigns.

To summarise, influencers should:

  • Avoid falsely presenting themselves as genuine paying consumers

  • Not be misleading about their motivation i.e suggesting they would have bought the products even if they weren’t paid to discuss it

  • Always base their reviews on actual experience, even if this has negative connotations

And brands should:

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