Adwatch: Influencer Advertising

In this edition of Adwatch we look at three rulings from the Ad Standards Community Panel which illustrate how the Code of Ethics provision on distinguishable advertising works in the context of influencer advertising.

The clause, which applies to all advertising and marketing communication where the advertiser or marketer has a reasonable degree of control of the material, states that “Advertising or marketing communications shall be clearly distinguishable as such to the relevant audience”. Interestingly, Ad Standards recently conducted research into the community’s perceptions and understanding of clearly distinguishable advertising and found around half (49%) of the surveyed participants sometimes felt online advertisements were not clearly distinguishable as such. Read the full report here.

Wilde Beer

Wilde Beer Instagram Ad showing young couple in nature kissing

Issue: 2.7 advertising not clearly distinguishable
Result: NOT IN BREACH

This Instagram ad features a man and woman kissing, overlooking a waterfall with text accompanying the image stating “wilde_beer Take me away ??? #wildebeer #livefree @mitch.cox”

The Panel considered that the post appeared on the advertiser’s own Instagram page and it is reasonable to assume that the brand owner would have control over the post. The inclusion of the product and references to the product meant that it was promoting that product and in the Panel’s view the ad does meet the criteria of advertising and marketing communications.

The Panel then considered the second question, which is whether the material is clearly distinguishable as advertising material to the relevant audience. The post in question was posted on the advertiser’s own page and clearly depicted the product and referenced the brand name. The Panel considered that this Instagram ad is clearly distinguishable as advertising material to the relevant audience and determined that the advertisement did not breach provision 2.7 of the Code of Ethics. Read the report here.

Mercedes-Benz

Couple posing in front of wool shed with Mercedes Benz car

Issue: 2.7 advertising not clearly distinguishable
Result: NOT IN BREACH

This Instagram post by Pip Edwards, featured an image of her facing away from the camera standing on hay bales, with a man and child watching her. On the left of the image is a Mercedes parked and facing the camera with the driver’s side door open. The post has the caption “The Old Wool Shed. Grass Roots. 100% Pure Merino Wool. Straight off the back @jackmbrennan @thewoolmarkcompany @mercedesbenzau #merrimba # warren #merinowool #farmlife”.

The Panel considered the references to two companies in the post: Woolmark and Mercedes and noted that the Woolmark Company had confirmed there was no contractual relationship between it and Pip Edwards or her company at the time of the post. The post was therefore not an ad for the Woolmark Company.

A response from Mercedes stated that they have a partnership agreement with Pip Edwards that requires, among other things, Pip Edwards to create a prescribed amount of social media content on their behalf over a set period. The Panel also noted the advertiser’s response that the vehicle in this advertisement was provided to Pip Edwards for the long weekend, and there was no formal agreement in place that Pip Edwards would post about this vehicle. The image was taken and posted by Pip Edwards without any direction or control from them; they did not have a reasonable degree of control over the image; the image was not calculated to promote Mercedes. The Panel considered that while the advertiser may not have control over what Pip Edwards posts about their product, in the Panel’s view Mercedes had an agreement in place for Pip Edwards to create social media on its behalf and this provided the company with a level of control over the posts.

The Panel noted that a Mercedes vehicle was clearly shown in the ad, and considered that the vehicle appeared to be deliberately placed in the shot so that the Mercedes badge was visible. In conjunction with the ‘@mercedesbenzau’ tag in the caption, the post did appear to be promoting Mercedes motor vehicles. Even if the advertiser does not approve each post individually Mercedes does have the ability to request the post be taken down. In the Panel’s view the advertiser had an agreement in place with Pip Edwards, and had the power to remove posts, and this does constitute a reasonable degree of control over the material in question.

The post was one of a series of five posts made over the Easter long weekend that featured Pip Edwards and her family travelling, the first of which featured Pip Edwards standing in front of the Mercedes vehicle with the caption “From Beach to Bush…. in the Beast @mercedesbenzau #roadtriptoWarren #bushcountry #mercedesbenz #easterlongweekend”.
The Panel considered that the followers of Pip Edwards would be aware this post was part of a commercial relationship between Pip Edwards and the brand, and would recognise that this post was likely an ad for Mercedes. Read the report here.

Eco-Tan

Young woman applying fake tan

Issue: 2.7 advertising not clearly distinguishable
Result: NOT IN BREACH

This ad appears on the Instagram page of Kat Risteska and features a review of her thoughts of Eco Tan’s Coconut Body Milk. Kat has tagged @ecotan and #ecotan, amongst other hashtags. Eco Tan has shared the post on its Instagram page. The complainant’s concerns is that the ad is not clearly identified as advertising material and is therefore misleading.

The Panel noted the advertiser’s response that they sent Kat free samples of their product and asked her to write a review, but that they had no control over what Kat posted, or if she posted at all. While the advertiser may not have control over what Kat posts about their product, in the Panel’s view sending a person free samples of a product amounts to a business transaction and therefore can be considered a form of payment, and whilst the advertiser cannot control what is actually written in the review it does have an element of control as it has requested a review and has reposted the material on its own social media account.

The Panel noted that the ad reads as though from a press release rather than an individual’s actual thoughts on the product promoted.

Overall the Panel considered that the relevant audience of followers of Kat Risteska and other users of Instagram would be aware that this is a sponsored post for Eco Tan and is therefore clearly distinguishable as advertising material. Read the report here.

Ad Standards year in Review 2018
Ad Standards has also released their year in review for 2018. Here are the highlights from the 2018 Review of Operations report:
• 6696 complaints were received – up 3.5% from previous year.
• Ads featuring gambling products received the most complaints (23.1% of all complaints) mostly attributable to a Sportsbet ad “Manscaping?” which received an all-time record number of complaints (793 in total).
• The area of most community concern in 2018 was the way sex, sexuality and nudity were portrayed in ads, consisting of 36.4% of all complaints.
Read the full report here.

 

Have you signed up to the Ad Standards Bulletin? This monthly bulletin provides updates on recent determinations, complaint statistics and other interesting complaint handling happenings. It’s a useful tool for staying up to date with community standards in advertising. You can sign up at adstandards.com.au