What the new ASA rules mean for brands engaging through influencers

Gemma Young

04 May 2017



Influencers mean big business for brands these days. You only have to look at the likes of Zoella, who, according to her very own Wikipedia page, has already amassed a total of 957.3 million views on her YouTube channel. By my calculation that means 14 times the population of the UK has viewed her videos, earning her nearly £400,000 a year through various endorsement deals – not bad for a 27-year-old! Influencer engagement is undoubtedly a powerful PR tool, however the recent ASA rule changes mean greater visibility is now required and it’s vitally important that both brands and agencies understand the new rules of engagement. Last month the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ordered Instagrammer Sheikhbeauty to remove a picture because it was in clear breach of advertising rules – it failed to include the required #ad hashtag in the post copy. Not only is it potentially damaging for the reputation of the instgrammer in question, but also for the Flat Tummy Tea brand that provided the blogger with the content and discount code. A campaign that did more damage than good. As social engagement becomes an increasing focus for the ASA, brands and comms agencies need to ensure they are declaring all sponsored content – this means both paid and gifted, celebrity or otherwise. The requirements are fairly clear: #sp or #partner will no longer suffice – #ad or #sponsored must be included if money has changed hands. Gifting must be clearly stated as well – an influencer must always say whether they’ve received the product for free. Prominence is key as well. Posts can’t put their #ad amongst a sea of other hashtags or stuck at the end of an enormous block of post copy. With more people viewing posts on their mobile devices, hashtags need to appear at the beginning of the post – consumers shouldn’t be expected to click through to view the end of the post and see the flag. It’s super simple stuff - transparency is key. Ultimately it’s the responsibility of the agency or brand manager engaging with influencers to ensure that these rules are adhered to. Beware the pitfalls and adhere to the rules of engagement!