Following an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), 16 celebrities including Ellie Goulding and Rita Ora have agreed to make it clear when they have received gifts or payment to endorse products online.
The CMA, alongside the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), is responsible for enforcing laws for sponsored posts. The ASA deals with complaints over individual adverts, while the CMA takes action on the people involved.
Other celebrities that have committed to declaring ads are:
- Actress Michelle Keegan
- Writer and model Alexa Chung
- Designer and model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley
- Vlogger Zoella
- Mario Falcone from The Only Way Is Essex
- Alexandra ‘Binky’ Felstead from Made In Chelsea
- Holly Hagan from Geordie Shore
- Model Iskra Lawrence
- Camilla ‘Milly’ Macintosh from Made In Chelsea
- Reality TV personality Megan McKenna
- Chloe Sims from The Only Way Is Essex
- Louise Thompson from Made In Chelsea
- Fashion vlogger Jim Chapman
- Fashion blogger Dina Torkia
The CMA has not mentioned whether the named celebrities have breached the law, but following an investigation they have all volunteered to be more transparent with their social media sponsorship.
By agreeing to be clearer when posting ads, the stars have avoided court action, however the CMA says its investigation is still in progress.
Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA, said: ‘Influencers can have a huge impact on what their fans decide to buy. People could, quite rightly, feel misled if what they thought was a recommendation from someone they admired turns out to be a marketing ploy.
‘You should be able to tell as soon as you look at a post if there is some form of payment or reward involved, so you can decide whether something is really worth spending your hard-earned money on.
‘The enforcement action taken by the CMA has seen a number of social media stars pledge to be more transparent when posting online. It also sends a clear message to all influencers, brands and businesses that they must be open and clear with their followers. We will also continue our work to secure more improvement in this space.’
Many influencers, bloggers and content creators have seen celebrities posting sponsored content without following CMA guidelines and are left wondering how they get away with not following the rules that the rest of the community must stick to.
John Adams, writer of fatherhood and parenting blog Dadbloguk.com said: ‘For some time now, there has been quite a bit of discussion among content creators. Many of us know the rules regarding sponsored content and adhere to them, but have had to watch from the sidelines as various celebrities have either posted undeclared, sponsored content or used unclear language. It has felt like there have been two systems in place: One for the celebrities and one for the rest of us.
‘I welcome the CMA’s actions. I think it’s sent a very clear message that content creators are being monitored and enforcement action is a real possibility. I hope it leads to us all playing on a level field and an improvement in standards all round.’
Setting clear industry standards and ensuring audiences are able to trust content creators is one of the reasons Deb Sharratt of DebSharratt Communications and My Boys Club welcomes the cut down on undisclosed ads. Deb said: ‘I’m really pleased to see best practice in influencer PR and marketing being promoted and actively encouraged by the CMA. As a CIPR member, PR professional and a blogger, it is important to me that our audiences can trust our views, believe us to be authentic and know they can count on the industry to let them know when payment or payment in kind has encouraged online support and endorsement for a brand.
‘It can only benefit the future of influencer marketing and hopefully encourage other influencers to always fully disclose too.’
Anne-Marie Lacey, managing director of Filament PR, a creative communications agency specialising in influencer marketing campaigns while training its clients to work ethically and effectively with social media stars, said: ‘The news from the CMA today is most certainly welcome and not before time. We applaud these celebrities for agreeing to change the way they disclose paid-for content with brands across their channels. Often, breaking the rules isn’t done on purpose, it’s because brands, bloggers and PR practitioners don’t know the guidelines themselves, and better education is needed for all.
‘The fact is, influencers have masses of clout over consumers, and without clear and concise legal and ethical guidelines in place, that everyone is following in a bid to be transparent and not potentially mis-sell to an online audience – that includes brands, bloggers and PRs – then we aren’t going to see an effective change any time soon.
‘That said, this is certainly a step in the right direction, and we’ll be watching the findings of the CMA’s ongoing investigations with great interest.’
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