ASA says no #AD, no problem
Updated: May 21, 2019
Here's a good rule/tip/mantra to follow: ASA rulings that are not upheld, i.e. "no breach", can be as significant as those that are upheld.
It's just that they frequently don't make the headlines.
Today, for example, an ASA ruling into an Instagram post by @dresslikeamum (Zoe de Pass) was investigated for non-disclosure, but the ASA considered that the post was obviously identifiable as a marketing communiciation, despite the fact that it didn't include #ad, or a similar disclosure.
How is that possible? Because clear disclosure is not limited to #ad.
In this case, the post (which is definitely an ad because there is both editorial control and payment) included references to a waiting list, the handle @dlam_by_zdp and the tagged Instagram account for their collaboration as well as the hashtags “#airandgrace #dlambyzdpxairandgrace #dlambyzdp”.
The ASA said consumers would identify the brand collaboration through the reference to the waiting list which also linked to the page where consumers could join the list.
They also said that the use of the hashtags and the Instagram handle which referred to the brand page was sufficiently clear to those viewing the post on the publically viewable page that the post was an ad for Air & Grace and Zoe de Pass’ shoe collaboration.
They therefore concluded that the post was obviously identifiable as a marketing communication.
The logic here is that, if there are various clear and prominent "pointers" that this is a paid-for collaboration, that combination is sufficient to comply with ASA rules on disclosure and transparency. No #ad required.
The magic disclosure formula in this case was:
Reference to a waiting list for purchases
Collaboration Instagram account handle
But, is it also significant that this is an ongoing brand collaboration, and not an isolated paid post?
Has the ASA been more lenient because it considers consumers can detect that collaboration more easily than a fleeting paid-post without the brand relationship?
With just one ruling seeming to go against the #ad trend, it's hard to tell. Past ASA rulings and CAP guidance tell us that adding just a brand hashtag or account handle is not sufficient to meet the general disclosure rules so the crucial elements are likely to be the reference to the waiting list and possibly the collaborative relationship between brand and influencer.
CAP told me that they would provide more information in due course, so watch this space.