Ads must clearly be ads
Product placement and promotion has been part of Australian advertising since the advent of television and consumers have grown up understanding when content in a television programme or magazine is in fact advertising material. Social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat, provide a new avenue for brands to promote their products using popular personalities. It is important for advertisers to ensure that it is clear to the audience of the new media platforms when something is an advertisement.
In Australia influencer advertising falls under Section 2.7 of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) Code of Ethics which states that advertising must be clearly distinguishable.
Implemented in March 2017, the rules say that while there are no requirements that advertising or marketing communication must have a label, it does have to be clear to the relevant audience that the content is commercial in nature.
For an advertisement to be considered under the AANA Codes it needs to meet two criteria.
- Does the marketer have a reasonable degree of control over the material?
- Does the material draw the attention of the public in a manner calculated to promote a product or service?
The Ad Standards Community Panel recently considered an Instagram post by a well-known Australian influencer. The image featured a vehicle from a company the influencer had a commercial agreement with. The agreement required her to post regular images with the vehicle and gave the company power to remove images.
The Community Panel determined that, although advertisers may not have complete control over what an influencer chooses to post and the words he or she uses, the commercial agreement and the power to remove posts is seen to be a ‘reasonable degree of control over the material’. Therefore the post was considered to be advertising or marketing communication.
The Community Panel then has to consider whether the advertising was identifiable as such to the audience – the influencer’s followers. While influencers in Australia are not required to include #ad, by including the hashtag and handle of the vehicle brand the Community Panel considered this Instagram post to be clearly distinguishable as an ad, noting similar branded images from the Influencer’s previous posts.
The new provision applies also to paid advertorial content on internet, print and broadcast. Depending on the medium used there may also be additional disclosure restrictions, such as in the Free TV Code of Practice. The Community Panel has determined that including ‘this content brought to you by…’ and promotion of the brand within a print article did not breach the code as it was identifiable as advertising content.
However, in the first case to be upheld under 2.7, the Community Panel determined that a television infomercial involving hosts interviewing a cardiologist, there was insufficient evidence to show that the segment was paid for by a vitamin company.
The issue is not confined to Australian advertisers. The Advertising Standards Authority in Ireland updated guidelines regarding bloggers and influencers and said they are willing to name and shame those who do not follow their rules.
A popular US DJ has also been caught out for not properly stating that his Snapchat and Instagram posts were sponsored content. Following with US advertising standards he has now captioned his sponsored posts with #ad.