Using the hashtag #ad should be the bare minimum that influencers use to make paid promotions clear on social media, the Advertising Standards Authority has warned.
The UK’s ad watchdog has produced a new report, published today, that reveals people otherwise struggle to identify when paid posts by influencers are ads.
It follows an 18-month review in which the ASA looked at what kinds of labels and other factors were effective and whether its regulatory guidance was in the right place.
Both the ASA and the Competition & Markets Authority recommend upfront disclosures, such as #ad.
Adam Williams, chief executive of influencer marketing agency Takumi, said this year had seen the governing bodies "really clamp down" on transparency by banning content and handing out fines.
Posts from influencers with millions of Instagram followers, such as Mrs Hinch or Love Island contestant Olivia Buckland, have been investigated for breaching advertising rules. In the US, celebrities including Kendall Jenner and Emily Ratajkowski, who were implicated in the Fyre Festival promotion, are now being sued for producing ambiguous and misleading content.
Williams added: "Brands must work with influencers who are professional in their approach to transparent, creative and responsible content creation. Consumers are savvier than ever, so brands are taking the time to vet influencers and ensure they follow the rules, producing authentic but also compliant content."
The ASA’s research also indicated that other presentational factors may be important to ensure influencer ad posts are obviously identifiable as ads. The ASA’s focus will be on ensuring influencers and brands are being upfront and clear with #ad.
Guy Parker, chief executive of the ASA, said: "The research tells us that all of us can find it hard to identify when an influencer is advertising, so it’s crucial that ads are labelled clearly. Our message to influencers and brands couldn’t be clearer: be upfront with followers, for example by using #ad."