Making Sense of the New Government Disclosure Guidelines for Influencers

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You’ve probably all seen talk online about the new government disclosure guidelines for influencers. Let’s just get one thing straight – the ASA released an influencer’s guide to making clear that ad’s are ads in September last year. The CMA released the new disclosure guidelines about being transparent with your followers on January 23, 2019 – which has now got every Tom, Dick and Harry losing their heads. Had every influencer actually listened and adhered to the rules set out by the ASA, the CMA may have never got involved. But they have now devised new rules in a bid to protect consumers, and to make sure that any form of content they consume – paid, gifted or otherwise impacts on them fairly.

The first thing that came to my mind was in fact, “does anyone really know what they’re doing?” Have the CMA ever spoken to an influencer? Why aren’t they interested in listening or taking on board what we have to say? Why haven’t influencers (more so people in the public eye) been transparent in disclosing sponsored content and ambassador partnerships? Aren’t you proud to be working with the brands that you’re accepting a monthly pay cheque from? As both an influencer and a consumer, I understand the need for transparency and in an ever-changing, fast paced industry it can sometimes be hard to keep up. Here is how the new rules apply to influencers, and how I intend to disclose my work moving forward.

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What constitutes as an #AD?

In simple terms: anything that a brand has control over.

1. It counts as an advertorial if you’ve been “paid” in some way, whether that be monetary compensation or you’ve been paid in kind, i.e. products, trips, experiences AND the brand has editorial control, so if they’ve specified hashtags, key messages or posting dates – this is an #AD.

2. It also counts as an advertorial if you’ve received a gift in exchange for promotion. Here payment has been made in kind, and you have an obligation to post, so this would also be an #AD.

What constitutes as a gift?

1. If you’ve been paid in kind, i.e received gifts with no obligation to post, something that you’ve might have been sent because of a mailing list etc and there are NO guidelines from the brand or is not part of an arrangement – then it is unlikely that it will fall into advertising under the CAP code.

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Affiliate Marketing

If your content promotes particular products, includes a discount code or contains hyperlinks resulting in you getting paid for every ‘click-through’ or sale made, this counts as advertising. This doesn’t apply to everything you share, as some products in a post may just be there for editorial capacity, but the products that you are sharing an affiliate link or discount code for, need to be clearly labelled as an #AD. I think this is where a lot of bloggers and influencers are getting confused, as sharing an affiliate link without being told to do so doesn’t count as advertising, right? Wrong. You are still receiving payment, via click throughs, commission of sales – and this is advertising.

Past/Current/Ongoing Relationships

Not only do we now have to disclose payment, gifting and affiliate marketing – we also have to disclose previous brand partnerships within the last year. This is the only part of the new guidelines that I do not wholeheartedly agree with. How is it going to benefit my audience by sharing a top I bought from Miss Selfridge and also mentioning, I’ve worked with them on a number of occasions when no payment (money, gifts, etc.) is changing hands, but actually coming out of my pocket? I personally think this will really begin to blur the lines and become a grey area for many of our followers – did my previous collaboration influence my purchase, or did I just really want that top?

How Do I Disclose?

There are a number of ways in which the ASA and CMA recognise advertising:

I recently shared on my Instagram Stories how I am going to implement these new rules, and I’ll share them below for reference.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the influencer industry needs stricter rules and regulations for influencers to abide by consumer law, but these new guidelines have so many loop holes and hurdles for us to jump through that instead of eliminating confusion, it’s fuelled the fire.

I think the main issue with all of this is that influencers are being treated in a way that the print, TV and many other industries are not being subjected to. I hope this blog post helps to make better sense of the new guidelines for you all, but I would absolutely recommend getting clued up – not only to be transparent with your audience, but to safeguard yourselves and the online brands you have created. The ASA guide can be found here and the CMA guidelines are here.

Love, Aysh x

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