Future of Social Media

Assumption is the mother of all screw ups: Lessons from the Grace Beverly debacle

The ASA's influencer ad rulings underscore marketing's transparency issue. Ogilvy's Imogen Coles argues these rules are vital for industry integrity and consumer trust in sponsored content

By Imogen Coles

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) recently banned six ads by influencer Grace Beverley for not properly disclosing her posts as ads on Instagram and TikTok, and it’s set the influence world alight with conversations. 

But what implications do these rulings have - and why should we care?  

First-off, I want to urge caution. When pushed to the furthest possible scenario, the rulings could be viewed as ridiculous and this is what clickbait LinkedIn warriors would have you believe. But what purpose are you serving by mocking the ASA’s intentions here?  

The ASA, in partnership with the ITBA, has been instrumental in professionalising and building trust in influencer marketing. Without this, so many of us would still be talking about influence marketing as the ‘wild west of the marketing world’. We have all worked hard to build trust in our industry. Without trust our industry is worth nothing. 

To those who say we’re held to higher standards than traditional broadcasting, where product placement is very rarely disclosed, I say bring it on.  

We’re proud of the relationships we have with the influencers we work with, and our influencers are proud to say they’re working with our brands. As an agency, we stand for #AD on all content, gifted or otherwise. If you’re worried about disclosure, maybe you need to think a little harder about the partnership in the first place. 

So, what are the practical implications of the ruling and how do you stay on the right side of the rules? 

Never assume: It may be clear to everyone who follows you that you own a business, but we need to assume no added context at every touch point. If you own the business and you’re using a product – mention it. Be proud of it. The rules are there to protect the consumer and this can never be a bad thing.  

If in doubt, disclose: My rule of thumb is that if you’re asking if you should disclose, this probably means you should. A gift is a payment, a paid taxi to an event is a payment. If you’re reading this and you’re involved with an influencer, you’ve probably made a payment of kind.   

Influence is not one size fits all:Gone are the days of influencers fitting into a clear box of micro, mid and macro. Influence sits on a spectrum and everyone from a journalist to a Love Islander. Your mother-in-law could even be considered an influencer to a subset of people. Treat that influence with the consideration is deserves. 

And to any influencers reading this, remember that context is your friend. The ASA demands you use #AD upfront and centre, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot also explain the parameters of your partnership, take #AD paid partner / #AD gifted item / #AD long term partnership for example. Clarity can only be a good thing for your audience.  

The more you disclose with clarity, the more your audience will lean in. 

Imogen Coles is UK influence lead at Ogilvy


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