Hashtag AD: How to be Sure Your Ads are Adhering to ASA & CMA Guidelines
15th February 2019
Whether it’s charcoal toothpaste, slimming detox tea, or a free trial of Audible, we’re sure you’ve seen ads and sponsorships like these and more littered onto the captions and videos of influencers, YouTubers, Instagrammers, and celebrities across the world of social media. What usually accompanies these sponsorships, of course, is the most familiar of hashtags, #ad, and its many counterparts: #sponsored, #spon, etc. You get the gist.
But what are the unspoken rules when it comes to paid sponsorships and shareable affiliate codes? We’re glad you asked: The Competition Markets Authority (CMA), The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), and The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) have recently come together to release an informative guide on the rules regarding paid ads, gifted items, brands, and relationships, targetted especially to help Influencers.
The regulations are an attempt to clarify influencers’ declarations regarding the above and their use on social media, and so we decided to compile our own condensed list of these guidelines on how to abide by them.
Make It Obvious That Your Ad is an Ad
This may sound like an obvious one, but that’s the point – the ASA wants you to make it as obvious as possible that you’re posting an Advert or Paid Promotion: ‘Marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such’. The same rule applies for Marketers and Publishers, also: any advertorials published must be made clear that it is a marketing communication. For example, labeling them with appropriate headings like ‘advertisement feature’.
A good way to remember how to clearly label your post(s) in order to follow these rules is by using the handy Acronym UPAS:
- Upfront: The label that you use to highlight the ad needs to be upfront, in other words, in clear view before people click/engage.
- Prominent: Prominent and clear enough for people to notice it, in other words, not buried within paragraphs of text!
- Appropriate: Is the ad appropriate for the channel? What can you see and when?
- Suitable: It needs to be suitable for all potential devices, including tablets and mobile. Clear and easy to spot!
Use The Right #Hashtags
Consumers need to know the endorsement has been ‘paid for’. If this isn’t clear, your post risks breaking the law.
The CMA states that ‘although it’s not illegal for brands to pay people to promote their products in blogs, vlogs, tweets or other online articles – consumers need to know the endorsement has been ‘paid for’. If this isn’t clear, your post risks breaking the law’. So, with the advice from the above acronym taken on board, what else can we do to ensure our posts and endorsements are keeping within the law?
That’s where labels and hashtags come in. Whilst you might think that putting #spon at the end of your caption, or simply mentioning @ the brand will suffice, the CMA recommends generally avoiding these tactics, as well as using the word ‘Sponsorship’, ‘Sponsored Content’, #’Sp’, ‘In Association With’, ‘Thanks to…’ , etc.
So what labels should you use? The ASA prefers you to say it how it is and use the following in your choice of hashtags:
- – Ad
- – Advert
- – Advertising
- – Advertisement
If You’re Not Sure, Re-Read The Guide
It’s better to be safe than sorry! If you’re ever unsure about anything when it comes to your endorsed posts, make sure you read the extensive guide from the ASA and CMA so you can double-check and get clarification on anything you’re not certain about.
As AMA emphasises, falsely claiming or giving the impression that ‘an individual is acting outside of their business purposes, or is falsely representing themselves as a consumer’ may also break the law. Failing to identify a commercial intent behind a social media post or omitting ‘material’ information would also be considered illegal, whilst having to click ‘see more’ to find the #Ad label, or burying it under a million other hashtags, would be strongly discouraged.
What are your thoughts about the updated guide? Is it restrictive or does it finally allow consumers to differentiate between paid-promotion and genuine opinion?
Find out whether your post is an Ad and whether you’d need to label it using the handy quiz included in the guide.