New guidance for Irish influencers on how to clearly label ads on social media has been issued by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) and the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI).
The advice comes as consumer agencies across the EU, including the CCPC, begin a coordinated sweep of influencer accounts to assess their compliance with advertising and marketing rules.
The guidance issued today addresses paid promotion, items ‘gifted’ by brands or PR agencies, and the advertising of own-brand products and services.
It will support influencers to comply with their obligations under the law so that consumers know when they are being advertised to.
Consumers consistently overestimated their ability to identify influencer advertising, according to research by the CCPC and the ASAI published last December.
A number of different hashtags are currently used by influencers, including #IWorkWith and #OwnBrand, to indicate advertising.
But CCPC and ASAI say that for the avoidance of confusion, all commercial content should now be labelled #Ad or #Fógra for Irish-language posts.
Hashtags must be instantly visible to consumers, and posts about own brands must also be labelled as advertising.
“It is in everybody’s interest for influencers to be honest with their audience and transparent about their advertising,” said Kevin O’Brien, Member of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.
“CCPC research found that many consumers felt misled after purchasing an item on the advice of an influencer, and that levels of trust in influencers generally are very low. Clear labelling benefits everyone.”
It is an offence to mislead a consumer and influencers who fail to comply with Ireland’s consumer protection legislation may be subject to enforcement action up to and including prosecution.
To date though, no such prosecutions have been taken.
Orla Twomey, Chief Executive at the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland, said consumers shouldn’t have to question if and when they are being advertised to – it should be instantly clear.
“The guidance takes account of developments in influencer marketing and provides clear and straightforward guidance for influencers and brands they work with, on how to correctly and clearly label and disclose advertising content on their social media channels, to ensure that consumers are not misled,” she said.
The ASAI published research earlier this year that revealed over half of those surveyed were bothered by both the lack of transparency in influencer marketing and not being able to distinguish content from advertising.
These findings echoed similar results to that of the CCPC’s research last year which reinforced the need for this joint guidance, the organisations say.
Ms Twomey said the fundamental requirement for any advertising to be identifiable as such has been in existence for over 40 years.
“This new joint guidance will continue to improve compliance in influencer marketing, and consumer awareness and understanding in this area,” she said.