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Do brand owners need to say content they post, about their products and services, is an #ad ?

The Advertising Standards Agency, or ASA, recently ruled against Grace Beverley for posting TikTok and Reels content about a coat from her own sports brand, TALA, which she set up whilst studying at university and has grown into a multi-million-pound company. What does this mean for brand-owner disclosure, moving forward? 

With more and more influencers widening their income streams by using their platforms to create and market separate brands, it becomes crucial to keep the ASA’s guidance on ad disclosure front of mind. 

As we’ve discussed on our blog before, the ASA are very clear about their ruling on how influencers must disclose an advert on a social media profile. There’s no doubt that an influencer who is at all incentivised to promote a brand, or product in social media content, whether monies are exchanged or not, should mark it as such (preferably with #AD at the beginning).. 

When in doubt, #AD on content featuring an owned brand will keep influencers on the right side of the ASA’s “obviously identifiable” guidance, and it is the responsibility of any person involved in the content to ensure this process is followed. 

Grace Beverley's ASA banned adverts
Grace Baverley's adverts for Tala

However, the ASA’s recent ruling on Grace Beverley’s content brings renewed focus towards what brand disclosure means when you own the brand you’re promoting. 

Grace posted two reels and four TikTok videos which The ASA deemed to have broken the rules, and asked her to remove. The company argued that her followers would be aware of her relationship with TALA, having documented the creation of her activewear brand from its very beginning, positioning Grace as synonymous with the brand. In addition, Grace’s bio clearly stated her connection to TALA. 

The ASA disagreed, determining that they breached rules that adverts must be obviously identifiable. Indeed, the CMA gives clear guidance on this for influencers with their own brands: “You should not rely on your bio, previous posts or selecting links for more information for your followers to discover what relationship you have with the brand you’re promoting or advertising.” 

So here’s where the link between owning, and promoting a business, gets a little more nuanced. 

A business profile running content about the product they sell is clearly advertising by virtue of the context in which it appears - but does the same apply for the exact same piece of content, posted on the business owner’s profile, if the business owner isn’t an “influencer” in the traditional sense of the word?

In their guidance for influencers, the CMA and CAP define the concept of an ‘influencer’ as including ”any human, animal or virtually produced persona that is active on any online social media platform, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitch, YouTube, and others”. 

So, is a business owner an influencer? Technically, if you take the above as your definition. 

There’s an argument that, theoretically, all content from a person associated with a business should be marked as an #AD, whether to 10, 100 or 10,000 followers. If this were the case, 9/10 posts on LinkedIn could probably be deemed #AD-vertising (though we’d argue that the nature of LinkedIn gives meaningful context for employee posts without it needing to be expressed at the start of every post!).

Ultimately this is a nuanced conversation about how media-literate we collectively assume users to be - an imprecise art, less a science. 

So what now?

Influencer marketing is constantly evolving, and so is the guidance from the CMA. If you’d like to talk through the guidance or want to run a compliant campaign for your business, get in touch with us, or have a look at our Influence(rs) page. 


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