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Instagram advertising: new ASA decision requires better hashtags for influencer content

Home Insights Instagram advertising: new ASA decision requires better hashtags for influencer content

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Contributed by: Joe Edwards, Charlotte Fleetwood-Smith and Paige Coulter

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Published on: July 03, 2020


The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld its first decision on sponsored content and advertising posted by influencers on Instagram. This decision is relevant for businesses engaging with influencers given that the ASA thought all parties had a part to play in ensuring that advertising meets the Advertising Standards Authority Code.
The ASA Complaints Board held that influencer Simone Anderson failed to make it clear to consumers that recent Instagram posts were advertisements, and not "organic content". The posts each tagged the sponsor, linking to their Instagram pages, but did not disclose that Anderson was paid, or received products from the businesses in return for the posts. The Board identified the use of "affiliate codes" (a common influencer practice) as requiring clear identification of the financial arrangement to be clear to audiences.
After complaints were made, Anderson amended the posts to include #gifted, however, the Complaints Board held that this was not sufficient to inform consumers of the ongoing commercial relationship. Hashtags such as #ad, #advertisement, #advertising or #sponsored are more appropriate and more fulsomely disclose a commercial gain. The ASA has previously commented that Art Green's use of #sp on a paid Instagram post for Heineken was not sufficient to indicate that the content was paid for. 
Businesses looking to include influencer content as part of their marketing strategy should ensure that any commercial relationships with influencers are properly signalled to avoid potential complaints and media attention. This area may also be set to receive further ASA guidance following the Complaint Board's request for further guidance. If you have any questions relating to compliance with the Advertising Standards Code or Fair Trading Act on social media, please contact one of our experts listed below.

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