When should influencers use #AD for paid content?
When should influencers use #AD for paid content?

As many of you would have seen in the news at the beginning of the year, former Love Island star Molly-Mae Hague was the latest reality star to be reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for breaching the CAP code.

What happened to Molly-Mae’s Instagram post?

Molly who is an Ambassador for Pretty Little Thing had posted an image to her Instagram account and tagged the online retailer, but did not write “#AD” nor disclose her partnership with the brand via ‘Paid Partnership’ tag.

The complainant argued that the post broke advertising rules because it was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication.

Pretty Little Thing responded to the claim by confirming that Molly is one of their brand ambassadors but the post in question was of her own volition and not prompted by the company.

The company described the post as an “organic” feed post that was not part of their contractual agreement with Molly and noted that all paid posts should be identified via a “paid partnership with PrettyLittleThing” tag.

So what does this mean for Influencers?

This can be a massive grey area for influencers, if the regulation implies that they need to signpost content they’ve not been paid for, this may cause issues of authenticity on their posts, as we could start seeing oversaturated feeds with #AD labels on and a less trusting audience.

In September 2019, the ASA stated #AD is ‘’necessary as minimum’’ when disclosing paid-for content to help members of the public identify sponsored posts. However, there needs to be absolute clarity on the rules for brand partnerships and whether influencers need to declare content promoting brands they’ve previously worked for, to avoid influencers making the same mistake as Molly-Mae.

Whilst there’s a lot of uncertainty around what is sufficient enough to not breach the branded content policies; to exercise the best form of practice and for influencers to stay safe, we would advise to not rely solely on platform-tools, as this is deemed ‘not clear enough’ to a consumer. By using both the ‘paid partnership tag’ along with ‘#AD’ in the caption this is the most transparent way, in order to stay within the guidelines.

Our Top Tips to Stay Compliant

  • Do not rely on platform tools such as ‘paid partnership tag’ as this is deemed not clear enough to a consumer

  • Paid partnership tag plus #AD in the caption is the best form of practice and safest measure for an influencer

  • Make sure the language is clear and consumers understand that an influencer is being paid to advertise

  • #client #gifted #collab #spon #affiliate are not compliant with ASA guidelines

  • If an influencer has received something for free or discounted this should be disclosed in the caption via #AD

  • If an influencer is posting a live stream advertising something this should be verbally acknowledged as well as written #AD

Moving forward influencers, marketers and governing bodies must work collaboratively, in order to ensure that transparency is key. Whilst consumers are savvier then ever, we need to guarantee that everyone follows the rules by producing authentic but also compliant content.

As the ASA continues to roll out more rules in the new year, we will be sure to keep you up to date with our top tips on how to stay compliant. For more details you can visit the ASA’s website, where you can find advice and tips on how to stay safe.

If you have any questions or would like to find out more about how to stay within brand content policies, please get in touch with us! 👋