From Rachel’s haircut to Beckham’s briefs – celebrities have influenced many of us. We’d expect them to as this is a by-product of their stardom. We’d also expect them to be paid sometimes to do and say certain things because of their position.

Today, we have Influencers – everyday people that have the power to influence the purchasing decisions of others because of their relationship with their following/audience.

Social media grants you access to an influencer’s world which can often look very much like your own (or one we aspire to have). In turn, we offer them trust. If they recommend a product, you trust their judgement because they are just like you, right?

What happens when those recommendations form part of a marketing campaign just like any other ad? Do followers have the right to know?

The answer is yes.

As solicitors based in Exeter, we’re seeing the legal and regulatory climate shift due to the growing commercial power of bloggers and Influencers.  Most recently, the Competition Markets Authority (CMA), the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) have published new joint guidance for social media influencers, following an investigation into this area. The Influencer’s Guide aims to guide influencers on transparency, making it clear when they have been paid, incentivised, or in any way rewarded to endorse or review something in their posts. This includes where an item is gifted or loaned.

Where could influencers go wrong?

Let’s imagine that my Instagram was interesting enough to have a wide following.

I am paid by a restaurant to eat dinner and post about my experience positively with the aim of attracting new customers to it. I subsequently post an image of my meal, tagging the restaurant, saying:

“Thank you for making this possible @NiceRestaurant. My friends and followers get 20% off here if you mention my name #NiceRestaurantad #collab ”

In this one post I am doing three potentially damaging things:

  1. It does not do enough to tell the whole story. The only thing that made the post possible was, in fact, their payment to me for posting it.
  2. I offer a discount to my followers who are unaware that I get paid more if I introduce people to the restaurant; and
  3. Collab could mean anything and hiding “ad” within the name of the restaurant could be consider ambiguous.

The position would be no different if I were paid in free dinners rather than cash.

Since August 2018, the CMA has been investigating Influencer conduct, as required to do so by the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing Regulations.

The CMA’s position is that “all parties in the supply chain – the brand, marketing companies, agents and the influencers that make the posts” are responsible for compliance with relevant rules and law.

Suggested transparency techniques include:

  1. Disclosing details of relationships with brands;
  2. Signposting “Advertisement Feature”, “Advertisement Promotion” or #Ad, #Advert at the beginning of the post;
  3. Use the tools such as the “Paid Partnership” tool on Instagram to highlight that you have been paid for the post.

In short, with great selling power comes great responsibility.

Be aware and transparent. Become familiar with your legal and regulatory obligations before you risk facing sanctions or financial penalties.

To read the Influencer’s Guide for more information, click here.

For legal enquiries please email, or call 01392 256854