The Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) has secured formal commitments from 16 celebrities – including Ellie Goulding, Rita Ora and Michelle Keegan – to be more upfront about whether they have been paid or received any gifts or loans of products which they endorse on social media.
The move follows growing concerns that so-called “influencers” are riding roughshod over the rules; last week the Advertising Standards Authority said it had warned “between 200 and 300” social media influencers over paid for posts.
Their posts can have a powerful impact and boost sales for the companies promoted – with millions following their every whim, from where they go on holiday and what they wear to which products they use and more.
All 16 of the celebrities named by the CMA were being investigated because they may have broken the rules repeatedly. Each celebrity will now be closely monitored by the CMA, which has the power to take court action if they fail to comply.
CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli 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 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.”
The celebrities named by the CMA are:
- Pop star Rita Ora
- Actress Michelle Keegan
- Singer Ellie Goulding
- Writer and model Alexa Chung
- Designer and model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley
- Video blogger Zoe Sugg (who vlogs under the name 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 video blogger James Chapman (who vlogs as Jim Chapman)
- Fashion blogger Dina Torkia
Bazaarvoice vice-president of marketing Sophie Light-Wilkinson said: “Transparency over brand affiliations is certainly a step in the right direction, however, it doesn’t address any slip in the quality of content being produced among influencers.
“Despite its popularity, our research found that 62% of consumers now feel that influencer content takes advantage of impressionable audiences by being too materialistic and misrepresenting real life.
“While changing the nature of influencer content is no overnight fix, the silver lining here is that an immediate solution is already being highlighted by consumer behaviour. More than three quarters of consumers say they’re turning to the reviews, images, videos and blogs generated directly by their fellow consumers on brand and retailer pages to verify what an influencer is saying and remove bias. As the relationship between brands and influencers matures, it’s up to brands to find ways of augmenting and curating what true, customer content they can generate to ensure this is the information being accessed online.”
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