The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have cracked down on what they deem to be misleading and irresponsible influencer advertising by banning Instagram posts by Katie Price, Lauren Goodger and Georgia Harrison.
Whilst the ASA builds regulation in this area, it all poses the question: what is meant by ‘misleading’ and ‘irresponsible’ advertising? Below we consider two recent ASA rulings on the matter and what guidance has been published to help influencers navigate advertising rules and regulations.
Georgia Harrison Case
Team v24 (promoting their own product) and Georgia Harrison shared posts in relation to ‘weight loss gummies’. Both posts emphasised that the gummies could suppress hunger, with Georgia claiming “V24 Gummies are great at helping you lose weight…V24 Gummies made dieting so much easier. They’re delicious and when taken with water they suppress your hunger craving…#diet…”. Georgia’s post was accompanied by an image of her promoting the gummies in athletic clothing but concerns were raised when it appeared the photo had been edited, resulting in the image not being representative of her true body shape and ASA deemed this to be ‘misleading’.
In addition, the ASA took issue that both the Team v24 post and Georgia’s post claimed that the food had a beneficial effect on health but failed to include the relevant nutritional information which was required. Therefore, the ASA ruled the posts promoted the product in an irresponsible manner.
Lauren Goodger, Katie Price and Melissa Reeves case
Boombod shared several Instagram posts in relation to a Boombod weight loss product and similar posts were also uploaded by Lauren Goodger and Katie Price. The ASA noted that the images of Katie Price and Lauren Goodger contained in their posts both appeared to be altered to make their waists look artificially small and therefore ruled that the images were irresponsible. In addition, the ASA concluded that the claims in the posts also breached the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (the CAP Code) as they did not accurately reflect the relevant health claims.
The ASA also took issue with general health claims made by influencer and DJ, Melissa Reeves, in the comments box of Boombod’s own Instagram post, including that Melissa felt “more fit & toned, and a lot more confident too!” The ASA considered that this created the impression that those who were already slim could use the product to improve their confidence, which the ASA considered to be an irresponsible message.
Implications for non-compliance
The ASA ordered the influencers to remove the misleading and irresponsible posts and told them not to post such content again.
Any such action taken by the ASA will create bad press for the brand and influencers involved. The public do not want to think they are being misled. By not acting in compliance with the ASA and having to remove the posts, the brand may also believe that the influencer has acted in breach of the contract between them and therefore refuse to pay them the money agreed.
What guidance has been published to help influencers navigate the rules and regulations on advertising
It is clear from the above rulings, that the ASA is taking the authenticity of the images and communications used in influencer advertising very seriously. However, the ASA have not issued any clear content on this point. The ASA have published general guidelines (in September 2018) and a revision (in February 2020) for influencers, which sets out how they can make clear that ads are ads. In addition, the CAP Code sets out the rules which advertisers, including influencers must follow for non-broadcast advertising.
The above rulings have shown that some further guidance on misleading and irresponsible marketing is becoming increasingly necessary. However, in its absence, influencers must take time to consider the recent rulings and ensure that they are sharing authentic and accurate content with their audience.
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