The Advertising Standards Authority is launching an investigation into consumers’ ability to recognise online “ads as ads” following fears that the wave of commercial deals between brands and social media influencers and publishers is resulting in a “blurring of the lines” between advertising and editorial content.
That, in turn, has led to confusion and frustration among consumers, as well as uncertainty among influencers and online publications, about when and how content should be labelled as advertising, the watchdog said.
It argues that if people are unaware they are being advertised to, it is not only misleading but it also damages trust in advertising.
The “call for evidence” will form one part of the ASA’s ongoing work in this area and is the starting point for helping it explore whether it is getting it right on ad labelling online. The move follows a number of rulings against campaigns featuring social media influencers, which were deemed to have been flouting the rules.
The ASA believes the investigation will ensure it advises and regulates the ad industry in a way that is in tune both with how evolving digital platforms work and, most importantly, with people’s expectations and experience.
Dale Lovell, co-founder and chief marketing and partnership officer of ad platform AdYouLike, welcomed the move but added: “Consumers are far, far savvier than we give them credit for. Most consumers instinctively understand if something is an advertisement or not. Disclosure is everything with native advertising and brands should be happy to label their content as promoted by them.
“For content creators this means treating your target audience like real people – disclose that the content is an advertisement. Consumers really don’t care if it’s an ad or not – what they care about is that it is good content that entertains or informs them and adds value to their digital lives.”
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