Last week there was lots of heated discussion online about the latest ASA and CMA* advertising guidelines for social media. Along with (rightly) demanding that any content that has been paid for must be marked with ‘AD’ at the beginning of the post, the new rulings also state that:
– Any posts featuring gifted items (past or current season) must also be prefixed with the ‘AD’ disclaimer. Whether or not your content makes any reference to the gifted product.
– Any content containing affiliate links must also begin with the ‘AD’ disclaimer.
– If you feature an item that you’ve purchased yourself, you must again place ‘AD’ at the beginning of your content if you bought it from a brand that you’ve previously worked with.
So prepare to see ‘AD’ used a LOT more frequently on blogs, Instagram and in YouTube videos.
A number of online content creators were not happy about the latest guidelines – in part because if ‘AD’ becomes the blanket term for such a wide ranging selection of content it potentially becomes even harder to distinguish which posts have actually been paid for. (I will be using ‘AD’ for paid content, ‘AD – gifted’ for gifted content and ‘AD – affiliate” to try and make this clearer on my platforms).
For me the issue is not the demand for more detailed disclosure, but the continued implication that bloggers and Instagram influencers have been doing something illicit. For years it’s felt a bit like a witch-hunt. But the gifting culture you see across blogs and Instagram was adopted from the gifting culture within the magazine industry (which, rightly or wrongly, never gets criticised).
“For me the issue is not the demand for more detailed disclosure, but the continued implication that bloggers and Instagram influencers have been doing something illicit.”
Now, of course there are some bad apples in the bunch who deliberately mislead their audiences and refuse to properly disclose paid partnerships (and, let’s face it, they will probably ignore the latest rulings too). And there are also the influencers who disclose paid partnerships but remain tight lipped about gifting.
However, overall, the majority of women creating fashion and lifestyle content online are hardworking and passionate. And they genuinely care about building a level of trust with their audiences by being fully transparent (see Emma Hill, Erica Davies and Alex Stedman, for example).
It seems all too easy to attack young women for finding ways to monetise their skill-sets and passions online. In decades past most of the leading fashion and beauty influencers would have likely worked at glossy magazines and newspaper supplements, or in the creative departments at fashion brands (in fact, many influencers used to work in very these roles). But since the financial collapse, the death of the high street, and the growing desire for free, bite-sized content that can be viewed on a smartphone, those jobs are quickly disappearing.
So a generation of women stepped outside the box and found new ways to earn a living. I don’t think this entrepreneurial spirit should be mocked, shamed or belittled, but praised. And I worry that some of the rhetoric around the new rulings comes from a place of active distrust, and a suggestion that bloggers are “bad” and “dishonest”.
Whilst I find some of the latest ASA rulings a little excessive, overall I welcome the change and I would like to see this have a positive impact on the industry. My hope is that the new rules will bring clarity to audiences and create some much-needed space for more imaginative content that isn’t always centred around consumption. Let’s see how things pan out…
What’s your take on this? Comment below to share your thoughts…
Image by SC Stockshop
* FYI, I can’t read CMA without thinking about the Country Music Awards. Anyone else?