This week, Instagram announced a new sub-header on posts specifying when a commercial relationship exists between an influencer and business.
This move has been made in a bid to give the community greater transparency over what is and isn’t paid for on the site.
The new tool will allow a creator to tag the business they have a relationship with, and then the story or post will appear with a sub-header that reads ‘Paid partnership with’ followed by a tag to the business partner’s account.
This move comes off the back of a number of controversies in regard to the haphazard tagging of paid posts until now.
Last year, US-based consumer watchdog Truth in Advertising wrote a letter to the Kardashian-Jenner family identifying over 100 Instagram posts that were not marked as ads.
Until now, Instagram has recommended creators tag paid-for content with hashtags such as #ad or #advertisement. However, creators have so far been pretty loose in their application of these recommended guidelines.
Last year, for instance, US Fashion firm Lord & Taylor was fined by the country’s Federal Trade Commission for failing to disclose that 50 online fashion influencers had been paid to promote a dress for the firm.
An additional problem with the clunky #ad approach was that it was often hidden among the myriad hashtags that often accompany Instagram posts.
By formalising disclosure with this new tool, Instagram is taking an important step against the growing perception that creators are deceiving the community with untagged or poorly disclosed ads.
IAB chief executive Adrian Pickstock says that in addition to improving transparency this will result in a better experience for users.
“Instagram’s move to use tag sponsored content with a ‘Paid Partnership' subhead is a smart move towards improving the overall user experience,” Pickstock says.
“Transparency is key and Instagram users will, no doubt, applaud this approach. Improving the user experience is so vital to the ongoing success of interactive advertising industry and IABNZ encourages creators to use the tool once it’s rolled out in New Zealand.”
The question, however, is whether creators will use the tool or simply continue dancing around the disclosure rules.
The onus really rests on marketers to insist that influencers tag their posts, because not doing so puts the brand at risk of falling foul of the ASA rules.
ASA chief executive Hilary Souter warns that not clearly disclosing ads is clearly against the ASA rules.
“Rule one of the ASA Code of Ethics states in part: ‘Advertisements should be clearly distinguishable as such, whatever their form and whatever the medium used,’” she says.
“The risk in not making a commercial arrangement clear include a complaint to the ASA, and disengagement from consumers who are interested in authentic communications from individuals they choose to follow or engage with.”
She adds that consumers have the power to take action if they spot anything that breaks the rules online.
“If consumers are concerned that advertising is not being clearly identified, they are welcome to complain to the ASA – we have an online complaint form on our website, www.asa.co.nz,” she says.