Chances are if your reading this blog you are well aware of influencer marketing and have heard of the recent guidelines laid out by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) in the UK in an attempt to help issues with consumers not understanding the currently recommended #sp or #ad hashtags. In Econcultancy’s recent look at these they highlighted that 77% of consumers did not understand what the #sp hashtag means and 48% being unware of what the #ad hashtag means.

The new guidelines look specifically at affiliate marketing where there is a direct paid-for-ad deal between a business and an influencer. CAP highlight the issue in influencer marketing by mentioning how some affiliate marketing is obvious such as banner ads, yet others on social blog etc are less so.

“Some forms of affiliate marketing will be obviously identifiable because of the nature of the medium, for example banner ads, branded emails, ‘cashback’ websites or websites solely dedicated to the product or service promoted. However, in social media, vlogs, blogs, news sites and voucher sites, while it is certainly possible for the wider context and overall presentation to make clear that the author posting the content has a commercial relationship to the linked-to products, it may not be clear in all cases – particularly where the individual concerned is primarily a creator of non-commercial content or where the overall impression is of editorial independence.”

They point out there is no catch-all for all platforms, but that adverts should be clearly paid for advertisements and not individual endorsements. For social media they point out that #ad or ‘Ad’ should be clearly stated at the beginning of the post and that on image sites such as Instagram then ‘Ad’ should also be included in the image.

You can read the latest on the guidelines here.

Ok, so why don’t they really mean sh*t?

To say the least the guidelines are very loose. They are recommending the extended use of the #ad hashtag or mark that is clearly not recognisable by consumers. The repeated and clearer use of something that is not understood doesn’t mean sh*t. There is also no substantial understanding of how these guidelines are going to be enforced or indeed what the expected penalty for breaking them might be. So it is hardly likely that agencies or influencers are going to be particularly bothered about making it obvious that an ad is an ad.

I am not saying that CAP aren’t moving the right direction with these moves and essentially it is the social platforms responsibility to be ensuring that adverts are clear on their platforms. Instagram have already reportedly taken moves towards this by testing a tagging system that allows you to tag a partner, read more here.

It is unlikely that we are going to see social platforms rushing to solve this issue as they stand to loose a lot of activity if influencer advertising is limited at all. In my opinion making influencer advertising clearer will make influencer advertising itself and influencer marketing more powerful. Although many people admit to getting annoyed by ‘adverts’, myself included, making this clear adds a layer of transparency and will let consumers reinvest their trust in influencers and no longer have to ask “ermm are they trying to sell to me?”.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this…leave your comments below or join our Micro-Influencer marketing group on LinkedIn to join in the conversation.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Eline says:

    Hi Owain, great article. You say that influencers should make clear that their post is an ad so people will no longer have to wonder whether it is a genuine post or not. I believe that when a micro influencer with 2000 followers posts about a product, his or her followers first thought isn’t ‘Am I getting sold to here?’. They perceive this micro influencer as more genuine and authentic. Nevertheless, to maintain this authenticity influencer should only post for brands that he or she is aligned with and actually likes. Would love to hear your thoughts on this!

    • adminO says:

      Hi Eline,

      Thanks for reading the article, I think you have a really good point here with micro-influencer, thanks for sharing.

      When it comes to transparency about advertising, I totally agree that this may not be as important for the followers of a micro-influencer as it is for ‘celebrities’. However, even on a smaller scale it is very important to some people to know when an influencer is completely endorsing a product or whether it is some sort of paid agreement.

      I think why this would work so well if it was built into the app is that it would give influencers the opportunity to explain exactly why they are working with a particular brand. I feel like part of the problem is that influencers are adverse to talking about why they are working with a partner as it is not generally accepted and they fear backlash.

      Transparency across the board will allow real trust to build up over time and separate those that choose partners carefully and those that are purely money driven.



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