ASA influencers guidelines
Culture

Influencers must use #ad despite Insta’s paid partnership rollout

23 October 2020

Instagram has revealed new plans to flag sponsored influencer content when it is not labelled clearly as advertising, following an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). This includes rolling out its “paid partnership” header but brands should be aware they risk action from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) if influencers fail to use labels such as “ad” or “advert” in their captions as well as the Instagram header.

The CMA investigated “hidden advertising” on Instagram following concerns the platform wasn’t doing enough to tackle influencers posting adverts without making this clear to their followers. In response, Instagram have now committed to a series of measures in compliance with UK consumer protection law. These include:

  • Extending its “paid partnership” feature to all users, enabling all individuals to display a clear label at the top of a post.
  • Prompting users to clearly disclose if a post has been paid for.
  • New algorithms and other technological measures to spot posts where influencers have not labelled content clearly.

Instagram will also report users who fail to label their posts to the brands and companies whose products they are endorsing. “For too long, major platforms have shied away from taking responsibility for hidden advertising on their site,” said Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA. “So, this commitment to tackle hidden adverts and overhaul the way people post on Instagram – making it difficult for users to ignore the law – is a welcome step forward. These changes mean there will be no excuse for businesses to overlook how their brands are being advertised either – making life a lot harder for those who are not upfront and honest with their followers.”

As part of these measures, Instagram is also getting businesses involved by creating a tool to help them keep a track of how their products are being promoted. And, with confirmation from the ASA that influencers still have to comply with its Advertising Codes and use #ad in their posts, brands still hold a responsibility to do their part by enforcing influencers to use these advertisement indicators in their captions and take action where appropriate.