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To # or not to #? How clearly are you disclosing your influencer partnerships?

You may have seen a host of well-known influencers ranging from Rita Ora through to Alexa Chung and Ellie Goulding hit the headlines last month, pledging to now say clearly if they have been paid or received any gifts or loans of products which they endorse.

Influencers hold a lot of power: around 3 in 5 people who responded to our questionnaire told us they have bought something as a result of seeing it included in a post on social media, so it’s no surprise brands are lining up to work with social media personalities.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), alongside the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) and Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), is working to ensure consumers are being treated fairly and most importantly aren’t misled by ads which might not reflect the influencer’s authentic opinion.

Everyone involved in influencer partnerships and endorsements – from the brand owner, advertiser, PR team and agent, through to the influencers themselves – has a duty to make sure audiences are getting the full picture about a post so they can make an informed decision. With people becoming increasingly wary of social media endorsements, consultants can help influencers and brands protect their reputation by making sure posts are honest and transparent.

Before embarking on an influencer partnership make sure you are clear on what is and isn’t allowed under consumer law. Read our advice and bear in mind the following top tips:

What you must do when working with influencers

·         Understanding what influencers are expected to do will help you advise them and spot if anything has slipped through the cracks.

·         For example, unsolicited gifts (or ‘freebies’) and product loans are considered incentives and should be explicitly mentioned. Otherwise, people could easily think that an influencer has bought the product themselves and therefore thinks it’s good quality or value for money.

·         It’s also important that influencers don’t imply that they have used something when they haven’t – so if they are endorsing a product, they should make sure any results that are being claimed in the post are ones they have honestly seen themselves.

·         Relationships with brands, including past relationships, need to be disclosed. Don’t assume that just because discount codes, competitions/giveaways, or links to the influencers’ own products are included, audiences will automatically know that there is a commercial relationship.

How to help influencers get it right

·         If you are working with influencers on social media posts, make sure the terms of their agreement with the brand are clear. For example, a brand should never tell an influencer that they can’t disclose the relationship or attempt to restrict how they do this.

·         Social media is constantly evolving, and different platforms have different tools to help with disclosure. Consumer law isn’t prescriptive about how influencers should talk about relationships: the important thing is that disclosure should be upfront. Audiences need to know if they are looking at an ad, or incentivised post, straight away – not only when they click for ‘more information’, or only from the profile page.

·         If you are helping an influencer when they come to craft their posts, take a look at the posts and check that any relationships or incentive are being referenced in a way that is clear, unambiguous and easy to understand. For example, they might use the ‘Paid Partnership’ tool on Instagram, or include prominently widely known and understood hashtags like #ad or #advert.

For more information take a look at the joint CAP/CMA Influencer’s Guide.

Pauline Goodship, Assistant Project Director, Competition and Markets Authority