Non-disclosure of paid commercial content is considered illegal under Consumer Protection law. In both the UK and US, efforts are being made to step-up enforcement.
In the UK, this enforcement is upheld by the Competition and Markets Authority (CAM), whilst in the US it’s upheld by the Federal Trade Commission.
The UK’s Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) ‘Code of Conduct’ aims to help both practitioners and influencers navigate the murky world of promoted posts.
The issue addressed by all of these bodies is that of disclosure; ensuring that audiences can easily distinguish paid content from owned content.
Paid Content – Typically paid content will take the form of advertising, sponsorship or ‘in kind’…
Advertising = A brand / business assumes complete editorial control in return for payment
Sponsorship = A brand / business assumes partial editorial control in return for payment
In Kind = A brand / business provides goods / services in return for editorial, for which you maintain full editorial control
Owned Content – Content whereby the influencer maintains sole responsibility for the editorial control.
In 2012, Nike fell foul of the guidelines with a series of promotional tweets from England footballers including Wayne Rooney, one of which read: “My resolution – to start the year as a champion, and finish it as a champion … #makeitcount” followed by a website. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that this and other tweets did not make it clear enough that it was an ad, and had to be deleted.
In 2014, five advertorial YouTube videos from vloggers, each featuring Oreo biscuits (Mondelez UK Ltd), were ruled to breach CAP’s Code of Conduct because they were not obviously identifiable as marketing communications and their commercial intent was not clear prior to consumer engagement.
- Ensure there is a clear campaign brief for any promotional content; what’s expected, on which platforms, and when
- Clearly identify content that endorses or promotes a product which you’ve received in kind as a ‘Product Placement’ or ‘Sponsored Post’. A simple disclosure like ‘Company X gave me this product to try…’ will also suffice
- Clearly label content that has been paid for with ‘Advertorial’ or ‘Ad Feature’, ideally in the title. If promoting through social channels you can adopt hashtags such as #ad
- Ensure paid posts clearly identify who paid for the content
IMPORTANT: All labelling relating to paid content should be marked ahead of the content i.e. at the top of a page, the beginning of an article, etc.
This short video provides a brief overview of the regulations and how to ensure your blog is compliant: