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.
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.