As the Advertising Standards Authority publishes it's first ruling into a TikTok ad, I decided it was time to talk about the error that this influencer (Emily Canham) and plenty of others have made when creating "added value" posts.
First of all, what do I mean by an "added value" post? It's when a content creator goes above and beyond their brand brief/contract and they create extra material. There's no expectation of further payment (not immediately, anyway) but it's a way of showing the brand that they have contracted with that they like their products / love working with them / appreciate the collaboration. Or it's may be that they've been giving extra products not described in the contract or perhaps they've taken a strong liking to one particular product and want to show their followers how great it is. The point is - they've NOT been explicitly told to post about the product by the brand; it's their own choice to do so.
So what's the problem with that? Well, as today's ASA ruling shows, an added value post could be considered an ad under the ASA's rules (the CAP Code). And if it's an ad, it must be disclosed.
In Emily's case, it was a post featuring a discount code for GHD straighteners. Despite the fact that her contract made clear that this post was not part of the deal and the additional fact that the discount code would not have worked, the ASA concluded that, because Emily was under contract with GHD at the time and because the post was clearly promoting GHD straighteners, she should have included a disclaimer such as #AD.
This was not the first time a content creator had been caught out by an added-value post that they'd failed to disclose. In January this year, Molly Mae Hague (of Love Island fame) faced an upheld ruling by the ASA for failing to disclose an ad for the brand PrettyLittleThing (PLT). This was an Instagram post in which Molly Mae had worn an outfit by (and tagged) PLT. PLT believed the post was organic because it was outside the scope of her contract but the ASA considered that because Molly Mae had an ongoing financial relationship with PLT and it was clear that she was wearing a PLT outfit, the post was not organic but an ad that should have been disclosed.
So does this mean content creators should never create added-value posts? Not at all. But they should be mindful of these rulings. If there is an ongoing relationship with a brand then any posts that feature the brand's products, especially those where the brand has been tagged or identified in another explicit way, should be disclosed using a clear label such as #AD. It's still, of course, possible to disclose using natural language, provided that it is prominent (so at the start of the post). For example, an Instagram post could start with
"As you know, I love working with [BRAND] and, even though they've not asked me to make this post, I couldn't help taking this irresistible shot of me wearing [X] ..."
The ASA's intention is not to deter content creators from expressing their passion for a brand and I do believe these added-value posts can be great at demonstrating to both their followers and the brand that this is, indeed, a valuable and successful relationship. But it's important to keep a clear divide between truly organic content and posts that have been influenced by a financial relationship.
If you want help unravelling the rules and regulations on disclosure, contact influencer marketing regulatory expert Rupa Shah at Hashtag Ad Consulting.