How to Properly Disclose Sponsored Instagram Posts
From March 1, under new advertising standards, social media “influencers” have to clearly label their sponsored content.
It means that, for the first time in Australia, you will have a pretty good idea whether the post in your Instagram feed has been paid for by a brand. The new code by the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) covers all social media platforms, and any kind of social media user.
Breaking the AANA code won’t mean a huge penalty – the association is self-regulating and following the rules is voluntary. The rules only apply to the brands themselves. The Advertising Standards Board can ask for the ad to be taken down.
The real danger is prosecution by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for breach of Australian Consumer Law (ACL). That hasn’t happened yet in Australia – there have been no legal cases against social media influencers. But it could. Brands are increasingly turning to influencers to promote their products, and this has led to young people becoming their own ad agencies.
Few of these social influencers are across ACL. Breaching the ACL carries a maximum fine of $220,000 per post for an influencer, and $1.1m for a brand.
The AANA rules are a guide to staying out of trouble. Here’s what you need to know.
What is sponsored content?
It’s usually pretty clear what is sponsored content – a brand pays an influencer to wear their dress or spruik a hotel. The grey area is around scenarios where the brand just gives the influencer the dress and they then endorse it on social media.
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The guidelines set out two criteria:
- Does the marketer have a reasonable degree of control over the material; and
- Does the material draw the attention of the public in a manner calculated to promote a product or service.
The key word here is “control”. If a brand doesn’t tell you what you have to say, there’s probably no control. Lawyer Stephen Von Muenster, a leading authority on consumer law, told Hack there may be some “implied control” when the brand advises about “key messages” or gives the influencer more product than they should – for example, a year’s supply of makeup rather than a sample.
“There’s shades of grey and no easy answer,” he said.
Sarah Harrison, who has the 12,500 followers on her @littlemissmelbourne Instagram account, and sometimes does paid content, said her rule of thumb was “whether the content you’ve created … has the potential to mislead.”
“We need to be mindful and avoid creating a misleading and false impression, and we really have that duty of care for ourselves and our audience.”
“It’s about being real, and being true, and being authentic.”
What’s the pay scale?
It depends on the brand, but according to Tribe Group, which connects influencers with brands, influencers should ask for between $75 and $1200 per post. Here’s Tribe’s guide for influencers:
In the past, brands would contact an influencer directly. But the industry has recently matured. A brand can now tender for paid content through a broker like Tribe, and influencers will then submit their pitches. The brand only pays for the content they choose. If the influencer gets the tick, they post the content. Tribe collects a 20 per cent commission.
Tribe Group head Jules Lund said one major international brand recently received 85 pitches in 48 hours after putting a tender on the app.
“One girl has already made $85,000 and she’s a dietician with 180,000 followers,” he said.
“We paid $1.5 million last year to everyday content creators.”
Tribe has 300 brands on its app, and 9,000 influencers. One of these is Sarah Harrison. She said she liked the app, although it put the brand “in the driver’s seat”.
“They’re the decision makers about whether you go with them or not,” she said.
“It’s becoming more and more like advertising.”
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How do I label the content?
The exact label doesn’t matter, so long as the message is clear. The AANA recommends adding “#ad” to the post. Jules Lund, fro theTribe Group, told Hack he was recommending #spon.
Jules said Tribe had found no difference between the popularity of posts that disclose their commercial nature and those that don’t.
But everyone already knows about paid posts …
That may be true, but it doesn’t matter to the ACL. Even if your target audience are savvy Gen Y, the potential audience could be Baby Boomers who have no idea.
Is anyone complaining about being duped on Insta? Probably not. Jules Lund said 15 months ago the ACCC told him it had received no consumer complaints. “They said we don’t intervene unless we have a consumer complaint and we haven’t yet.”
Hack wasn’t able to confirm this with the ACCC, although a spokesman said the Commission had not pursued any social media influencers for breach of the ACL. (Read about ACL in more detail here)
So, it’s fair to assume there haven’t been a lot of complaints. This is probably because people on Insta and other platforms already know about paid content.
This post was originally shared on the abc.net.au website