In September 2020, New Zealand’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) released guidance in relation to “Influencer” advertising. In broad terms, Influencers are individuals who have a following on social media (regardless of size) and who have influence over the choice, opinion or behaviour of their followers. Influencers often generate income from developing and distributing content about products or services to their social media following.
The ASA guidance provides guidelines around the application of the Advertising Standards Codes to Influencers when posting to social media, including clarifying obligations around the identification of Influencer advertising content. Influencers are required to clearly identify advertising content in their social media posts, for example, through the use of clear and upfront labels.
According to ASA Chief Executive Hilary Souter, the publication of the Influencer guidance resulted in a significant increase in complaints against Influencers. This was reflected in the substantial number of decisions published by the ASA in the first quarter of 2021 compared with the same time in 2020. Many of these decisions involved complaints against popular Instagram Influencers in relation to posts that did not sufficiently indicate that content had been paid for.
It appears that the majority of complaints against Influencers settled due to the co-operation of the Influencer in amending the relevant post to include a compliant ‘ad’ label and their commitment to correctly labelling any future posts. However, the reputational harm associated with such complaints is likely to present the greatest concern to Influencers, who rely on the loyalty and support of their followers to monetize their social media content. It also appears that social media users are becoming more aware of the requirements of the Advertising Standards Codes and are keen to hold Influencers accountable for non-compliance. To stay outside of the ASA’s spotlight, Influencers should become familiar with the ASA guidelines and take care to ensure their social media content meets the requirements of the Advertising Standards Codes.