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Product: Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages
Advertiser: Aoife Walsh, Tipperary Water
Medium: Online – Influencer’s Social Media Account
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 3.31, 3.32, 4.1, 4.4
An Instagram Post and Instagram Story on the Influencer’s account featured the influencer talking about the advertiser’s product.
Several images of the influencer holding the product and a close-up image of the product were accompanied with the following text:
“Spot the proud Tipperary woman! We are all looking for ways to be more sustainable and my locally sourced water @tipperarywater have launched their first sustainable eco carton that’s 100% recyclable and made up of 88% plant materials. The cap is even derived from sugar cane! How cool is that?!! Isn’t it amazing to see local Irish companies be more eco-friendly and lower their carbon footprint. (clap emoji’s) #StrongerTogether #TipperaryWater #collab #sustainability”
The Instagram Story featured the influencer talking about a scenic drive in Tipperary and Tipperary Water.
“And I brought with me the new Tipperary Water tetra pak which is so, so cool. So, like proud Tipperary women like Tipperary Water. But basically, this is their new 100% recyclable, it's made up of 88% plant materials and even the cap is actually made from sugar cane which is so so cool. So this is their first step like into more sustainable”
On-screen text during this part of the story is shown in white text against a black background:
“I brought with me the new @tipperarywater Eco carton. It's 100% recycled, made up of plant materials and the cap is even derived from sugar cane.”
The word AD is featured in white text against a white background and was partially covered by the on screen send message feature.
Further on-screen text is shown in white text against a black background stated:
“Proud Tipperary woman here. It's their first step towards a more sustainable option @tipperarywater”
“So that's my craic. it's great to see Irish companies and of course like local companies to me, obviously I'm Tipp, come on board, be more sustainable, lower their carbon footprint, help us be more sustainable, give us more sustainable options so (gives thumbs up). So that's all of my news for ya.
On-screen text shown during this part of the story was featured in white text against a black background and stated:
“So nice to see Irish companies and local to me lower their carbon footprint and give us more sustainable options @tipperarywater”
The word AD is shown in white text against a white background.
The next part of the story featured an image of a hand holding a carton of the product.
On screen text was featured in white text against a black background and stated:
“That's all of south Tipp in the background! looking well if I do say so myself! @countytipperary
This is the new @tipperarywater Eco carton, doesn't it look great”
The word AD was shown in white text.
The complainant considered that the Instagram post was misleading because it was not clear that the influencer had taken part in a paid collaboration as the term “#AD” had not been used on the post which the complainant understood was a requirement of the Code.
The complainant considered that the Instagram story was misleading because it was not clear that the influencer had taken part in a paid collaboration as the use of the term “AD” appeared to be hidden.
The advertisers stated that after reviewing their brief and the communications between their social media agency and the influencer, they had made it clear to the influencer that the post be marked as a collaboration with Tipperary Water and that the intention was that the ‘Paid Partnership with Tipperary Water’ be used. They noted that while the post had been flagged as a collaboration using #collab which they said would be seen as recognition of a paid collaboration, they did not consider that it had gone far enough to meet the ASAI standard and that the post should have explicitly stated #AD or #SP. They said that whilst it was standard practice and known by the influencers they work with, their QA process did not trap the shortfall on the hashtag used, resulting in the error here and as a result, they had amended their process when managing external publishers to include a further content check before sign-off, to prevent such an error from happening again.
The influencer said that they always have and continued to follow the advertising guidelines set up by the ASAI. They said that they had very clearly marked the static post communications as 'collab', meaning a paid collaboration with the brand in question. They said that this was industry standard, and not only was using the word 'collab' often requested by brands themselves, it was often used by leading professionals in the industry. The influencer also said that they always use 'collab', 'ad' or 'sp' on all of their paid collaborations, therefore making it clear to their followers that what they are seeing is a paid partnership.
The advertiser said that they had made it clear in their brief that the content was to be marked as a paid collaboration and their intention was that the Instagram story be tagged as a paid partnership with Tipperary Water.
The influencer stated that they used the term ‘ad’ in all their stories in relation to the collaboration and they considered that it had been made very visible to the viewer and they provided a screenshot from their story.
The ASAI Executive compared the published images with that provided by the influencer and noted the image provided by the influencer did not include the onscreen features of Instagram such as the ‘send message’ and ‘arrow’ symbols that are on the bottom of a viewer’s screen. The ‘AD’ in the version sent by the influencer was much clearer than the images taken by the ASAI and the complainant.
ASAI research (October 2020) on consumer attitudes and perceptions about influencer marketing, including familiarity with advertising disclosures, reported that only 4% of respondents who used social media identified ‘collab’ as an advertising disclosure.
Complaint Upheld In Part.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ and influencer’s responses.
Issue 1 - Statement:
The Complaints Committee decided to issue a statement rather than a formal Decision in this case, in accordance with options under the ASAI Complaints Procedures.
The Complaints Committee noted that the post had been marked as ‘#collab’ which they noted was a term sometimes used to indicate that social media content was a marketing communication. They also noted the advertisers’ comments to the effect that #AD and #SP were preferable.
The Committee further noted that the use of descriptors to indicate marketing communication content varied and was a constantly evolving area. Nevertheless, noting the results of the ASAI’s research, they did not consider that ‘collab’ was a clear indication of commercial content and advised that its use should be discontinued.
Issue 2 – Complaint Upheld:
The Complaints Committee reviewed the images provided by the influencer, the complainant and those obtained by the Executive. They noted that the onscreen features such as the “send message” feature that appeared to followers was not shown on the image provided by the influencer and that the clarity of the image was significantly different to that provided by the complainant and that obtained by the Executive.
The Committee referred to the requirements of the Code that a marketing communication should be designed and presented in such a way that it is clear that it is a marketing communication. While the Committee accepted that the influencer had included the word ‘AD’ in the story, they did not consider that every part of the story had clearly shown the word ‘AD’ due to the colour of the text against the background imagery and also the onscreen features of Instagram. They considered that the Code requirement did not just apply to the inclusion of a notification, but also to how clear the notification was. As the notification was not clear in all parts of the story, the Committee did not consider that the advertising was in compliance with Code Section 3.31 of the Code.
‘Collab’ should not be used as a disclosure to indicate that material is marketing communications.
The advertisement should not reappear in its current form.
The Committee reminded both parties to consider the placement and clarity of notifications when declaring content as a marketing communication.