Everyone and their mother are currently discussing the latest guidelines that have been released by the government. Everyone should have read it by now or at least skimmed it, yet if you haven’t then click here to have a skim and see what I am about to blabber on about. My own opinion on the latest guidelines, in brief, is that it is quite frankly absurd in some cases. I have already started seeing influencers (when not taking the *****) labelling all their posts as #AD. The problem I see with this is that there is now a lack of transparency to followers with where physical payment has been exchanged. Below is my letter to the government on how I personally think this could be tackled in the simplest form.
Dear the UK government, CMA and ASA,
I wanted to write to you and say thank you for trying to bring more clarity to the world of social media and advertisements. I understand it is an incredibly tricky and murky area to try and regulate and to be honest anything you put out there would come under scrutiny. Yet, the latest release of these guidelines which have hit the media with a bang have many flaws which really need to be addressed before it becomes a murkier hole than it ever was before. Below are how I believe you should classify the different terms.
A paid for collaboration with a brand.
When placing #AD it should be easily visible to the viewers eyes. The term #AD should be used on any content creation that an influencer and/or a media publication creates under a contract with an exchange of monetary gain.
EXAMPLE: A paid collaboration between a brand and influencer where there is a brief to follow and specifics that need to be completed and stated within the posting.
No money is exchanged but there is a requirement of content creation.
I know you have said that you don’t like the term sponsored and I get that. The word sponsored would however work well for any posts that an influencer or publication has been asked to create as free work in exchange for a free experience or free gift…BUT the giver has given on the terms of a guarantee of some publication. For example the giver has given the “free” gift but has given editorial direction and asked for some publication in exchange.
EXAMPLE: When a brand or PR sends a product, gives you a free experience but requires you to post some content creation in return for the “freebie”.
Free goods with no editorial direction or requirements.
When working in the “influencer/journalism” world you are often sent gifts. These gifts are 90% of the time unexpected. We are grateful and if we like a product we may use the products for future posts or very often in a PO unboxing video or post. Although I agree that these should labelled for transparency that you did not pay for said item, yet to place #AD on such products is wrong and misleading.
EXAMPLE: A product or experience given with no expectation or direction given for content creation.
When there is an affiliate link in the hyperlink to a linked product.
We only gain pennies from these affiliate links and is not an advert as such. It is a chance for us to earn a bit of pocket money from an unpaid promotion of a product with a brand that may not even know that we are going to promote their product.
EXAMPLE: When an affiliate link is placed by choice of the influencer not the brand on a website or stories swipe up link or on a social media post where monetary value is gained.
In December 2018 I worked in a paid collaboration with Marks & Spencer for the Holly Willoughby collection. I used the correct hashtag of #AD. I buy clothes and underwear from their store regularly. I have done since I was a child (although my parents obviously spent the money on the items back then). If I buy more items from them within the next year, post a photo on my Instagram and tag them in my post because that is what a follower of a fashion Instagrammer wants to see, does that mean I have to place #AD? I spent my own money in said hypothetical scenario. My followers may well go and spend their own money on these items. Then M&S will be making a profit from my content creation. I will not make a penny. I, a small time freelancer will not be earning money. I, a small time freelancer will be loosing credibility with my followers because they will be seeing #AD on everything I do and in turn think I was paid for the untrue “paid collaboration”. This can also prevent me from other potential work that month with a competitor of said brand.
It is all very tricky and the reason why there has been such an uproar in the last few days is because #AD is not appropriate on all occasions. It is also apparent that traditional press journalists have not adhered to these rules or similar in the past even though they have their own growing following on social platforms. When does a person become an influencer? Is my mum with 100 followers also an influencer because someone asked where her blouse was from? Should she have written #Ad too because she had a friends and family discount token when she bought said blouse?
One last point I would like to put out there is that if we stick with your latest guidelines you will find that influencers only post about products they have paid for. This is going to be harmful for smaller brands that can not afford to place advertisements in magazines or pay for the influencers content creation. This is detrimental to small businesses who can currently get free press through the likes of unboxing videos or unpaid placements in outfit photos or flat-lays.
Thank you for your time,
With regards to my featured/header image for this blog post. I also posted this on my Instagram. Please do let me know if you think I should have labelled this as #AD or not?
Taken on a photoshoot for Take A Break magazine, booked through my modelling agent. Yes I was paid for the shoot but no I wasn’t asked to post behind the scenes photos.
Hair and make up:
My hair and make up was done by a lovely make up artist, I tagged her. Is this now #AD because I am promoting her?
Sent to me after the brand reached out to ask for my address. They did not ask me to post a picture of myself with it. They did give me a discount code for my followers in case I did, but I didn’t share it because it wasn’t necessary to this post. Yet, if someone messaged me asking more details I would message back saying, here is a discount code, should I also add #AD in my message response?
Oasis sent me this jacket free of charge. I was not required to post an image in this jacket and was not paid any money to do so at anytime. Should I write #AD because they gave it to me? Over the last two years that I have owned this jacket I rarely take it off and it features in many of my posts, does this mean that every post I put up with this in I should write #AD?
This dress I believe is M&S. If I tag it as M&S do I have to place #AD because I did a paid collaboration in December but this isn’t mine and I am wearing it because the stylist put it on me for the photoshoot?
I hope this does not all seem too antagonistic, it is simply to address the issues that have now arisen and I hope that some sort of clarity and compromise can now be reached.