What you NEED to know about the social media endorsement guidelines from the CMA (UK)

Information on complying with consumer protection law when endorsing brands or services on social media.

The CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) published new guidelines this week to ensure that influencers, brands, marketing agents, intermediaries and all involved in the supply chain are aware of consumer protection law when it comes to influencer marketing on social media.

This comes after the CMA started an investigation in August 2018 into the disclosure of paid for endorsements on social media platforms.

We’ve previously had guidelines from the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority), the UK’s advertising regulator, and their sister organisation CAP (Committees of Advertising Practice) who write the Advertising Codes.

The results of the CMA questionnaire showed that people check social media for opinions and reviews before purchasing a product or service and that social media endorsements influence buying decisions.

The new guidelines state that the audience needs to know when an influencer has been paid, incentivised or anyway rewarded to endorse, promote or review a product or service (including where they have been gifted/loaned items).

Covered in this post:

Social Media Endorsements: Guide for Influencers

If you (as a blogger, vlogger, celebrity or social media personality) are paid, incentivised or rewarded to promote a product, brand or service on social media, here are the new CMA guidelines you need to follow…

  1. Say when you’ve been paid, given or loaned things – this includes free unsolicited gifts. See definition of payment below for more details.
  2. Be clear about your relationship with a brand or business – if you’re including discount codes, competitions, giveaways or are referencing your own range of products you need to state that the post is a promotion. If you have a past relationship with the brand (including receiving product loans, gifts and/or other incentives), you need to disclose this relationship if it’s been within a reasonable period (1 year).
  3. Don’t be misleading – don’t give the impression that you a) are a consumer when you are acting for your own business purposes or on behalf of a brand or other business, b) bought something yourself that was gifted or given on loan and c) you have used the product or service yourself if you haven’t.

How to properly disclose

If you have a current/past relationship with a brand featured, have received or been promised any form of payment or other incentive, it should be clearly stated in a transparent and upfront way. See definition of clear disclosure below.

Similarly to the ASA, the CMA recommend using labels like ‘Advertisement Feature’, ‘Advertisement Promotion’, ‘AD’ or ‘#AD’, which they believe are universally recognised and consumers understand completely.

They do not consider the following to comply with legal requirements:

  • using ambiguous language (like ‘thanks to x’ or ‘in collaboration with X’) without additional disclosure
  • tagging a brand, business or gift in text, picture or video without additional disclosure
  • using discount codes in a post without additional disclosure
  • hiding disclosure (like #ad or #advert) within other hashtags or at the end of text
  • using unclear hashtags like #sp, #spon, #collab, #BRANDad
  • disclosing commercial affiliation only on influencers profile page

Summary of definitions according to the CMA:

Influencer: bloggers, bloggers, celebrities or social media personalities.

Payment: any form of monetary payment, any incentive, reward or commission, the gift or loan of a product or service. They also state “for the avoidance of doubt” that a gift or loan includes the instance where no existing commercial relationship exists, which includes where something has been sent to you for free whether you originally asked for it or not.

Post: communication posted on social media platforms including video (for example a post on the main Instagram feed which could be single photo, carousel or video.

Product: goods, services or digital content.

Promote: links, promotional codes or tagging.

Clear disclosure (clearly stated/identify, clearer manner): intelligible, transparent, unambiguous, non-misleading, timely and prominent. Without the need for the consumer to click for more information (before “more” on Instagram), irrespective of the device being used.


Influencers agree to improve disclosure on social posts

Sixteen influencers – including Alexa Chung, Holly Hagen, Millie Mackintosh, Rita Ora, Zoe Sugg and Dina Torkia – voluntarily provided undertakings to improve the disclosure on their social media posts to make it clearer when they have been incentivised to endorse a product or service.

This undertaking states that they will clearly identify each post which promotes, endorses or reviews a product or service if they have received payment within the past year from the relevant brand or have been promised any payment. These posts will not falsely claim or give the impression that they are acting as a consumer or for purposes outside their trade, business, craft or profession and will not claim that the product or service can achieve particularly results in circumstances where they have not personally used those products to achieve those particular results.


TL;DR

  • The CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) published new social media endorsement guidelines for influencers
  • They apply to you if you have been paid, incentivised or anyway rewarded to endorse, promote or review a product or service
  • This includes free and/or unsolicited gifted items
  • Key message here is don’t mislead your audience!
  • You should be upfront and transparent in your disclosure of the endorsement and the relationship (current or past – the last year) with the brand

There’s been a lot of chatter about these new rules, with the majority of bloggers/vloggers disagreeing with the new rulings since a gift is completely different to a paid for promotion and so on…

I think the main thing to understand and focus on here is to just be open and honest with your audience. If you can justify your actions and disclosure, you should have nothing to worry about.

And really, the fact that the CMA are getting involved in this is a positive move for the industry to be taken more seriously – proof that influencer marketing really does work! I’m sure we’ll see these rules adapt over the coming years as the industry continues to develop.

Thoughts, questions and/or concerns? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@xomisse).