The ASA (Advertising Standards Agency) have introduced new rules for disclosure when it comes to content bloggers and so called, “influencers” share online. This includes posts on websites as well as social media. It is a bit of a minefield, and a lot of people have become very confused by it all. So, here are my top tips for understanding if your content is an ad (or not) as well as how you need to disclose.
Is it an AD?
Firstly, consider if you have been paid, or gifted an item for review or inclusion on your website or social media. Payment, regardless of its form, is the first step in creating an ad. There are three main forms of payment:
You have been sent a product to review or share online.
You have been sent a voucher in return for producing content.
You have been sent payment via PayPal or BACS.
Secondly, consider who has editorial control over the content, you or the brand. Here are the ways each party could be in control.
You have full control over the content. In this scenario a brand has simply sent some form of 'payment with so guidelines as to it's use. For example: a product sent for review where no outlines have been given as to the provision of content.
The brand has partial control over the content. This means in some way they have given instructions as to how the 'payment' is to be used. For example: they have asked for specific content to be posted, they have provided a deadline for you to post by, or they have final editorial consent prior to the content being shared.
To be absolutely sure you are adhering to the guidelines set out by the ASA, unless you have bought a product, or paid for a trip yourself, it is an advertisment.
The full details of these two factors can be seen on the ASA website here where they outline in detail the points I have shared above.
It is an AD, so where should I disclose?
You should always disclose as early as possible (the ASA call it a 'timely' manner on their website here). Here are three ways this needs to be done.
In the title, and/or meta data of a blog post.
It should be clear immediately on seeing any link to your post, whether in the title, meta description or extract. This will mean that it is immediately obvious from search engines and your home page what the content you are sharing is.
At the beginning of a blog post.
Blog posts should have a disclaimer stating the kind of collaboration the content is (for example if you were sent an item for review, or paid to share specific content). This includes if you were sent items for inclusion in a round-up post such as a gift guide. Don’t forget you also need to disclose and label all affiliate links now too! I use an asterisk (*) to label products I have been sent, and a dagger (†) for any affiliate links I have included.
At the start of any social media content.
It must be made clear at the start of all social media posts on Facebook, Instagram (including stories), Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube. This is because people do not always click the ‘... more’ on Instagram or ‘... See More’ on Facebook.
What wording should you use in your disclosure?
The ASA website states here that all disclosures must be clear and understandable to the masses. This means you must specify the type of collaboration your AD is. Simply using ‘gifted’, ‘sponsored’, ‘spon’ and other disclosure words which some of us used to use are no longer considered clear enough and you could be called out for a breach of the ASA rules. Here are some of disclosures I use:
[AD] For any content I have been paid to produce, either by PayPal, BACS or gift voucher.
[AD | Unpaid review] For any content where I was sent an item to review or include within a gift guide. For example sharing a photo of an item I was sent to try out for my Mother’s Day gift guide on Instagram here.
[AD | Press trip] For any content produced sharing a day out, holiday or experience where I was not paid to attend but given the opportunity to attend thanks to free entry or stay. For example our Red Letter Days night away for two reviewed on my blog here and shared on Instagram here.
[AD | Ambassador] For any content where I am an unpaid ambassador for the brand. This will often mean I receive one or more products from them as well as a discount code for my followers.
The Influencers Guide
Hopefully you are now a little clearer on the rules surrounding ADs on blogs and social media. If you are still not 100% sure the ASA and CAP (Committee of Advertising Practice) have created an awesome Influencers Guide to advertorial content which you can download here. It is completely free and has a flow chart that you can follow to decide how you need to disclose on any of your upcoming collaborations.
I am by no means an expert on this but I have done extensive research into the rules to make sure that I don't get it wrong. As you have seen I have shared the sources of my information throughout this post and all of it has come direct from research on the ASA website. I hope it is a bit clearer for you now and you can carry on posting online to your hearts content.