Sixteen social media stars have been pressured into complying to clearly state if they have any financial links with any products they endorse on social media. This comes in the wake of a government investigation into the extent in which social media influencers are purposefully misidentifying business relationships they hold, therefore misleading audiences.
Stars include singer Ellie Goulding, model Alexa Chung, and beauty vlogger Zoella, who is perhaps the most influential as she holds an incredibly young fan base.
The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) is a self-regulatory watchdog who observe and govern how online influencers and brand adhere to legal guidelines about labelling ads. I briefly mentioned this in my two-part blogpost about Youtubers and Consumerism.
The violations have mostly taken place on Instagram, where individuals post a seemingly natural photo which happens to be secretly advertising a product, and this is not disclosed anywhere on the post.
The full list of the sixteen online celebrities who have been targeted in order to explicitly label ads are:
Each of these 16 celebs will be closely monitored to ensure they adhere to the legal guidelines about disclosing ads and sponsored content, and if they fail to could face fines or even imprisonment.
Influencers can have an incredibly huge impact on what their fans and followers decide to purchase, so if they are seen as praising a product, there may be a flock of people go out to buy the same product. This is perfectly fine, but if they are being paid to promote said product, and have failed to mention this, it poses ethical and legal questions regarding deception. Now there has been this stricter crackdown on ‘ads’ and sponsored content, there should be no ambiguity about if content is now sponsored or not. In the photo below, Zoe had posted the photo (clearly posing with the watch strategically positioned on her wrist) and an overly nice caption regarding the watch and the brand. To me, it was obvious this was a sponsorship as this is clearly not a candid photo, and who mentions the brand of watch they are wearing? It seemed so random. However not all readers may have realised this. Since the ASA announced the crackdown on the 16 influencers, Zoe has since gone back and re-edited the caption for her Instagram posts containing ads (which you can see demonstarted on the screenshot below with the little “paid partnership with…” banner. There is absolutely nothing wrong with accepting sponsorships, after all this is their job and they need to get paid somehow! But a clear declaration of what is sponsored or not is incredibly useful in these scenarios, and can help audiences in deciding whether or not to make a purchase! After all, this is mostly for the benefit of younger or more impressionable viewers who don’t understand the implication in a sponsorship potentially affecting one’s opinions.
More information on this topic can be found here:
As well as some discourse YouTube channels that discuss YouTube drama and covered this topic:
- Angelika Oles (UPDATE: Angelika has since deleted her video on this topic due to slight misinformation displayed in the video. However I still recommend her channel for content about YouTube drama, and an honest yet entertaining individual)
What do you think about this topic? Do you think a prison sentence is too harsh for failing to specify if a post is an ad? Let me know in the comments below.
Come back next Sunday at 6pm GMT for another blog post, and in the meantime head over to my Instagram!