My Thoughts on the New Social Influencer Disclosure Guidelines

The New Social Influencer Disclosure Guidelines | Not Dressed As Lamb

Oh, how the blogosphere got itself into a right tizzy last week over the new #ad and disclosure guidelines.

It seems that every blogger and his/her dog were wading in on the latest guidelines for influencers (their term, not mine…) and how we’re meant to be disclosing ads, sponsored posts and gifted items. And to be fair, I personally thought many of the complaints were totally justified – that was until I read the guidelines for myself, not just the comments about them.

Seems everyone’s a bit confused, so I’ve picked apart the most recent articles and guidelines and hope that this post makes a little more sense of it all for you.

What’s expected of us may be a little clearer than mud, but it’s still a long way from crystal.

Currently very few of the top celebrities and influencers disclose when they’ve been paid to promote something (or when they’ve been gifted something) in any way at all so they’re FINALLY being held accountable. We’ve known this for ages because any Instagram post where they’re shamelessly holding a protein powder or flashing teeth whitening strips and NOT mentioning anything about #ad or #gifted or #paidpartnership is OBVIOUSLY undisclosed.

(I’m amazed they don’t sense the mass eye roll that accompanies our weary scrolling after they’ve hit “Publish” on these posts.)

However, rather than just insisting they put #ad at the beginning of the caption (which in all honesty is what we all knew the rules already were, so WTH?!), the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) have added more “bits” to their social influencer disclosure guidelines which are now, at best, superfluous – and at worst, confusing.

And I say superfluous from a CONSUMER’S point of view, not a blogger’s.

 

Confused by the new guidelines? I am…

This is why I’m confused: these guidelines were set out clearly in September 2018, not January 2019. Yet the guidelines have hit the headlines just now because the CMA published a page on gov.uk (the UK government website, i.e. all things law) on 23 January entitled “Social media endorsements: being transparent with your followers“.

Basically, all this page does is create the aforementioned superfluous waffle that is as confusing as hell, with a note and a link at the end to read the CMA’s download “An influencer’s guide to making clear that ads are ads”

…which was published in SEPTEMBER.

What I don’t understand is this: WHY has this come to our attention now (and made the news headlines, of all things), when the guidelines were there all along? WHY is it that it takes a news headline and/or word of mouth for this information to find us? WHY is everyone more confused now than they were before with no one [in the UK] able to decide on exactly what they’re meant to be doing?

Going slightly further back than September, in August 2018 the CMA published a press release on the gov.uk website, which stated that:

 

“If they do not label their posts properly, fans or followers may be led to believe that an endorsement represents the star’s own view, rather than a paid-for promotion.

They are then more likely to place trust in that product, as they think it has been recommended by someone they admire. They might not do so, however, if it was made clear that the brands featured have paid, or in some other way rewarded, the celebrity in return for endorsement.” ~ Source

 

Er – I beg your pardon, CMA: are you suggesting that ALL influencers, when paid to promote a product, do not actually believe in said product and are doing it PURELY for the money?! [I think you are.] That may be true of some, but it’s certainly not true of me and for the majority of people that I follow (and have respect for).

When I work with a brand, I work with them because I either already use and believe in their product, or it’s because they’ve introduced themselves (and their product) to me and I’m now a fan.

Example:

I’ve just turned down a four-figure fee (and potentially five-figures according to the budget they described) from a skincare brand because their moisturisers and serums cost anything upwards of $1,200.

EACH.

There is NO WAY I would ever, ever, EVER buy a moisturiser that costs that much. In fact, I wouldn’t buy one that cost £100. Therefore I don’t care how good it is, there’s no way I could hold my head up in public the blogosphere again if I were to start endorsing a product like that (and I doubt they’d even gift me so much as a tiny pot of eye cream as part of the promotion if they cost THAT much).

I’m pretty sure the majority of my readers are not rich, LA-based women with more money than sense. Therefore, I politely turned them down.

Instead, I’m working with a “regular” skincare brand I’ve worked with before, and whose products I buy and use on a regular basis. Maybe they won’t pay as much as Crazy-Ass-Expensive US Skincare Brand, but hey – I LIKE my readers and followers. They treat me well, so I like to return the favour. I’m not here to con them with fake recommendations.

(And if you agree with me on that point, you might want to tweet the following to the CMA…)

To @CMAgovUK: I only work with brands I BELIEVE IN. Just because it's a paid #ad doesn't mean it's not my own view as you wrongly suggest.

 

The “new” social influencer guidelines

So here is what I’ve deduced from the new guidelines “An Influencer’s Guide to making clear that ads are ads” in a nutshell, though I do recommend you read them yourself:

1. It’s important to understand the CMA’s definitions of “payment” and “control”

“Payment” is anything paid to an influencer whether that be cash, good, services, or product.

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“Control” is ANY stipulations put into the agreement, whether that be a request for guaranteed coverage with no final approval, an insistance that a particular link, phrase or hashtag is included, or full, final approval with amendments.

Only 100% no-obligation (“here’s a gift, please enjoy it as you wish”) gifts are considered to be free of “control”.

 

2. The following all count as advertising (ads) so must be labelled as such:

i. Any “paid-for space”, e.g. banner ads, paid-for search results and sponsored/promoted posts on social media platforms

ii. Own advertising, e.g. posting about your own products/services (products you sell, events you’re running, prize draws or giveaways)

iii. Affiliate marketing, where you get paid for every “clickthrough” or sale that can be tracked back to your content

iv. Advertorial, where the brand has paid you in cash or in product or services AND had some form of editorial control over the content (control can be simply just insisting on a post in return and you write whatever you like) OR full control with requests for links, timescale, final approval, etc. (there has to be both payment and control for this to count as an ad)

v. Any reciprocal arrangement, e.g. a partnership with a brand whereby they pay you to be an ambassador or you’re given products, gifts, services, trips, hotel stays, etc. for free (i.e. freebies with control, though this is much like point iv. above).

 

3. Payment with no control

The guidelines say “If you’ve been ‘paid’ (either in money or in gifts/freebies), but it isn’t as part of an affiliate arrangement and the brand doesn’t have any ‘control’ of what (or even if) you post, it’s unlikely that the content will count as advertising under the CAP [The Committee of Advertising Practice] Code.”

They describe this as “sponsorship” (just to confuse us further), saying it’s not covered by the CAP Code, and the ASA [Advertising Standards Authority] won’t pursue complaints about it. But they still expect influencers to disclose it.

 

4. Ads have to be clearly marked as ads

They’ve said that consumers need to know the endorsement has been “paid for”. If it isn’t clear, your post risks breaking the law:

i. Both the influencer and the brand are responsible for makings sure that ads are clearly disclosed

ii. The ASA LIKES the following labels:  Ad | Advert | Advertising | Advertisement | Ad/Advertising | Advertisement Feature

iii. The ASA recommends we “stay away from”: Sponsorship, Sponsored content, Spon, #Spon, #Sp | In association with | Thanks to [brand] for making this possible | Just @ mentioning the brand

iv. Any label, hashtag, etc. used needs to be upfront (BEFORE people click/engage), prominent (so people notice it), appropriate for the channel (what can you see and when?) and suitable for all potential devices – so yes, “Ad” needs to be within the first two lines of an Instagram caption, OR it can be added as a text overlay on the image.

 

The other superfluous stuff

A lot of the other talk last week was about disclosing past relationships with your followers. This is where the contradiction comes in: it’s simply MENTIONED in the January article, but isn’t included in the published September CMA guidelines (despite the former linking to the latter in “More information” at the bottom). It’s ambiguous and doesn’t take in the complications that arise when you think how literally we’re meant to take it.

It says:

“Past relationships matter too. Even if you don’t have a current relationship with a brand, if there was a past relationship (or you received product loans, gifts and/or other incentives) people need to know about this. Only relationships within a reasonable period need to be declared: anything within the last year is likely to be relevant to followers. If you aren’t transparent about these circumstances, you could be misleading people.”Source

 

It’s all very well them saying this, but they haven’t been clear about WHAT they’re referring to. Do I have to be actually referencing the product I was gifted? What if it’s just sitting innocuously in the background? What if I’m “wearing” it but you can’t see it (moisturiser, underwear, nail polish base coat, etc.)? It may sound like I’m being pedantic but when they’re not clear, we’re in the dark and everyone gets confused.

Example:

I’ve recently bought a new dining room table from Next. I worked with Next last year on a paid (fashion) campaign – absolutely no connection between the two. If I were to feature a shot of my downstairs living area on stories and the dining table is visible, according to that article I would have to disclose my table picture as an #ad because I’d had a previous commercial relationship with the brand. In a completely different context.

I don’t know about you, but personally: WHO CARES? As a consumer I don’t give two hoots about someone I follow showing off their new dining room table – that they bought with their own money – having worked with the same brand to promote their clothing range in the last 12 months. What on earth have the two got to do with each other?

If I were to “advertise” the table and include a swipe up affiliate link (where I may receive a small commission if my followers swipe up and buy something via that link themselves) then yes, I AGREE that it should be disclosed. If I were to “advertise” or promote the same clothes that I was gifted as part of the campaign with Next, then yes, I AGREE that it should be disclosed.

Where do you draw the line with this one?! The CMA and ASA obviously haven’t thought this one through, or they haven’t discussed it with influencers. Discretion and common sense is key here I think, and that’s what I’ll use in future (as I hope I’ve always done).

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A handy flow chart to determine if an ad is an ad

This is actually pretty helpful: at last, something useful! Use this to determine whether your post/content is advertising…

 

An influencer's guide to making clear that ads are ads (UK CMA guidelines)

 

How I will be labelling my content going forward

To be honest I’m not at all worried about any past content not having been labelled correctly. I’ve always disclosed both on the blog and on my social media clearly when a post has been paid or just gifted – and quite often in layman’s terms. However before it was all a bit “up in the air” as to how and where to label sponsored/paid for/gifted content, so I’m glad that FOR ONCE it has filtered into mainstream media so that hopefully consumers, as well as influencers, are aware of what the latter are meant to be doing.

Unfortunately the guidelines are not 100% hard and fast (#eyeroll) and two of the articles slightly contradict each other (#doubleeyeroll). So in my bid to continue to be as transparent as before whilst still adhering to the guidelines (and the law), this is how and what I’ll be labelling from now on:

 

[AD – paid partnership]
– Where payment in cash has been received.
– This will be in the first two lines of Instagram, and between the main photo and the text in a blog post.

[AD – gifted item]
– Where “payment” was only the goods or services featured, but there has been some control from the brand.
– This will be in the first two lines of Instagram, and between the main photo and the text in a blog post.

[Gifted item]
– Where no payment has been received, and the gift was received 100% under no obligation (zero control from the brand).
– This will be in the first two lines of Instagram, and marked with an asterisk* within the main body of text in a blog post and as /gifted in the clothes listing. Also a line about disclosure with an explanation will be added, see below.

#AffiliateLink
– Where I may receive commission if the link is clicked and a purchase is made.
– This will be a hashtag in Instagram stories (you can’t include a link in an Instagram post), and disclosed on blog posts in the same way as I always have done, but only those gifted in the past 12 months: “Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which means if you click through and buy I may receive a small commission at no cost to you (click here for my full disclosure). Items listed as (gifted) and/or * were gifted within the last 12 months.” This will be added nearer the top, within the first body of text.

 

All of that together looks a little complicated, I know – but I hope that within the context of the post/content it should make perfect sense.

It’s as clear as I can be to YOU, my followers/readers, whilst at the same time keeping within the guidelines. In terms of the daft rule about declaring past relationships, I’ll use my judgement and disclose them when it’s relevant. Having a Next dining table in a shot of my downstairs living space and declaring it as an #ad (because I worked with them last year to promote their clothing range) is ridiculous, and I’m sure you’d agree that I’m not hiding anything there.

To be honest I find it pretty obvious when an influencer (wish we could stop using that term…) HASN’T disclosed. You’re looking for #ad straight away, and there it is, tucked away in the sea of hashtags at the bottom. Or it’s not there at all.

I’m glad that there are some clearer rules at last, as unclear as they may be. Let’s just hope that #ad doesn’t get used SO much that it’s bandied about left, right and centre because we’re afraid we’re not disclosing properly.

Because then we won’t be able to tell what really IS advertising, and what isn’t – and that defeats the whole purpose of it all, doesn’t it…?

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE “NEW” GUIDELINES? AND IF YOU’RE OUTSIDE THE UK, WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE GUIDELINES IN YOUR OWN COUNTRY? TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS!

Catherine

(If you wanted to read the three main articles yourself here they are:)

An Influencer’s Guide to making clear that ads are ads

Celebrities and social media stars investigated for not labelling posts

Social media endorsements: being transparent with your followers

So all that’s left to say is – I’ve shared my thoughts/stories/tuppence-worth this week, now it’s time to share yours… LET’S GET THIS [LINK UP] PARTY STARTED!

 

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63 Comments

  1. February 12, 2019 / 8:40 pm

    Thanks so much for this post Catherine. I’ve read through it twice now and no doubt will be back again. It does all seem a bit ridiculously overdone with rules that are still ambiguous – or is that just me? I know the idea is for full disclosure, but honestly who is going to actually police every single post over all media? And the consequences are …?
    Anyway, as usual you are doing your best for us all, this time explaining the inexplicable. Thanks for digesting all of the information and regurgitating it into these bite size morsels for us.
    Cheers,
    Anna

    • catherine
      Author
      February 18, 2019 / 5:43 pm

      Our posts won’t be policed by the ASAA (or CMA), Anna – it’s whether people will report us to them. And I guess if everyone DOES know the rules, non-bloggers as well, then I guess we lose their trust if we don’t disclose. I know I’ve already lost trust in some bloggers who are STILL not disclosing (or trying to hide the disclosure)…!!

      • March 8, 2019 / 6:29 am

        Thanks for your response Catherine. I’ve just popped back to check the fine print once more as I’m about to be gifted an item and want to be sure I know the correct terminology. I totally understand that this is about trust and do appreciate your time taken in explaining everything.

  2. February 12, 2019 / 2:51 pm

    Thank you for explaining in understandable language, all the changes to blogging. I am truly grateful for your help.

    You can include me in an enthusiastic eye roll at all the new rules and regs in the blogosphere. If they keep inventing these hoops, pretty soon we might need to disclose whether we are writing a post fueled by caffein or wine… nobody wants that, darlings!

    Big hugs from America,

    Jonet

    • catherine
      Author
      February 18, 2019 / 5:45 pm

      I’m not sure exactly what your rules are in the US, Jonet, but I think they’re pretty similar. But I think without the superfluous nonsense.

      I love the idea of having to disclose drunken ramblings, LOL!!!!!!! 😀

  3. February 7, 2019 / 6:56 pm

    Very classy and helpful insight. I’m just starting the blogging journey and looking for all the “cautionary advice” I can find. Thank you!

    • catherine
      Author
      February 18, 2019 / 5:46 pm

      My pleasure, Shannon – I hope it helps! Good luck (and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to drop me a DM on social or something ) x

  4. February 5, 2019 / 1:16 pm

    Great post! Im actually saving it incase I need it later. Im outside the UK and really have very little knowledge on “rules”. I note in my post if it was given to me free or if I will get a commission. I do not write about anything I do not beleive in. Sometime I will take it upon myself to brag about a new product I purchased. If I win or recieve something free as gift or sample and like it, I will usually return a favor and make a post , but always add a link back to the giver.

    Thanks for explaining the differences.
    Lisa

    • catherine
      Author
      February 18, 2019 / 5:46 pm

      Thanks Lisa – I hope it helps, but do make sure you check the rules in your own country… some are more strict than others!

  5. February 3, 2019 / 10:19 pm

    Carrying on our convo from Insta .. I knew you’d do your ‘sleeves rolled up – common sense’ approach to this as you always do with everything bloggersphere. 🙂

    It’s all a bit mad out there isn’t it?We are new media and the old guard don’t know what to do with us hence their knee jerk reaction every now and again. Common sense will hopefully prevail … eventually.

    • catherine
      Author
      February 18, 2019 / 5:47 pm

      Thanks Sharon – yes it IS a bit of a madhouse, and yes they obviously don’t know what to “do” with us!! I think using common sense where the rules are concerned is what’s most important 🙂

  6. February 3, 2019 / 9:57 pm

    Such a great post, Catherine. Nearly EVERY SINGLE POST I do falls into the dark blue bubble above… not an ad, and sponsored or gifted with no specifics or agreements. So normally sponsored works, but they want it to now say Advertisement Promotion, which doesn’t mean anything to anyone! Argh. I’m not going to complain about this, but it could be clearer and more common sensical. xxx

    • catherine
      Author
      February 18, 2019 / 5:49 pm

      “More common sense needed” should be the standard reply to these new rules, don’t you think Lisa?!I think as long as we declare everything that readers would WANT to know about – and clearly – then we’re doing it right x

  7. February 3, 2019 / 11:52 am

    This is brilliant. Thank you so much for wading through and clarifying it all. You’re a star. Happy Sunday my love xx

    • catherine
      Author
      February 18, 2019 / 5:50 pm

      Thank you Liz – it was a pain to try and pick out the important bits, but I think I got there in the end!

  8. February 2, 2019 / 9:59 pm

    Some of these rules are really ridiculous and rather confusing than disclosing. Why do I have to disclose the selling of my own book? That’s as if an online store tells the customer that they sell their merchandise. When I am the author of a fashion book, my name is printed on it, it is obvious that I get a small amount for it. It makes me want to disclose that I have to sell 100 books just to get the money back that I paid for the ISBN number. Looking at my science book and my science textbook, the publisher is making the big money. My science books was sold over a 1000 times, the royalty I got is a 3 digit number. It should be clear to the reader that when my post is entitled “Review of XYZ” that it’s about an gifted item. Nevertheless, I always disclosed it at the bottom. It looks like the legislators might think that their citizen are all idiots. But if they were idiots, the legislatures were elected by idiots. Now what? Who reads the hashtags anyhow? I’m in for the outfits. I only care who made them when I want to buy them. Another question is, do we have to go now thru all posts to make them compliant with the new terms to use? I mean I always disclosed what I got/did, but now they insist on these “terms”. I bet that these terms soon will be “banned” on social media and readers have to search #ad to see “influencers”‘ s posts. Where is the common sense? Having to call my own book an affiliate link is plain ridiculous!

    • catherine
      Author
      February 18, 2019 / 5:50 pm

      Your example points out the holes in their new rules, Nicole – I know you’re not in the UK but it’s a great example…!

  9. Susan
    February 2, 2019 / 5:30 pm

    I’m a blog reader, not a blogger. In the USA. Most of the blogs I read have a simple line in all of them that reads almost verbatim on all of them: this blog has affiliate links to products I endorse or that may be sponsored, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.
    In my opinion I take this to mean: the blogger would possibly buy this product even if it wasn’t sponsored, or the blogger is trying a new product and it was given to them and they are reviewing the product for me.
    I say if some expensive company offers you money to try a product and write about it then you should go for it. Be honest in your writing and post if you liked it. You’re not obligated to like it. If you liked it but wouldn’t spend the money write that also. Blogs are about content and making a living off of your writing right? I mean bloggers are the modern magazine article writers.
    Having said that I just found your blog and I’m enjoying you’re writing and photos! Thank you for that!
    Good luck

    • Danish Pastry
      February 2, 2019 / 5:55 pm

      The question is whether you’d be allowed to say “the products okay, the price is not and you could get similar results paying a fraction of the price”.
      I suspect that if the company are paying a lot, they want a lot of control, and may not allow you to publish if they don’t approve of the content.

      • catherine
        Author
        February 18, 2019 / 5:56 pm

        I know for a fact that many brands want a LOT of control over what you say – I’ve had to fight for writing something in my own voice before!!!

    • catherine
      Author
      February 18, 2019 / 5:55 pm

      Danish Pastry is right, Susan – the brand is HIGHLY unlikely to pay you for a review that’s saying I wouldn’t spend that sort of money on it, which is why I’d rather turn it down to start with (part of my commitment to keeping my integrity was to only work with brands whose products I’d buy myself). Now if I had a luxury beauty blog, for example, then that would be different… it would make perfect sense to review something like that! It’s just to explain to you why I turn things like that down, that’s all – I appreciate your support of bloggers working on paid promotions… many people resent ANY type of paid promotion, even if you’re the biggest fan in the world of that brand!!

      Glad you’re loving the blog, thank you for those kind words! x

  10. February 2, 2019 / 4:21 pm

    As someone who is still only considering monetising my blog after several years of blogging, this was really helpful, Catherine. I’ve been doing some reading about the process, affiliate links etc etc. And after reading your post I checked on-line and we have our own Canadian version of those transparency rules, which are very similar.
    But a couple of things bother me. Today I scrolled down through numerous posts on IG and I did not find one that had # ad or #paidpartnership or anything obvious like that. Saw lots of this … @liketoknowit … which I think is a shopping ap? Lots of links to companies #artizia #nordstrom etc etc. And maybe this is just me being very slow on the uptake… but linking to a company doesn’t mean that money has changed hands. If I love a local shop I always include their name in a hashtag. Do the same rules apply to Instagram, as to blogs? I am assuming they do.

    • February 3, 2019 / 10:34 pm

      Susan, you just brought up a great point. Although I have an IG account, I have absolutely no dealings with “Likeittoknowit or those other app monetizing thingys. What I do is hashtag and tag items I wear simply because I like them and made the purchase. And on the rare occasion I receive a product, I mention it. What I DON”T want my IG account or blog to turn into is an advertisement.
      I’ve unsubscribed to a few blogs I really enjoyed because they literally turned into a Nordstrom and Like it to know it ad. There’s something about reading a story that intrigues me–and I tend to veer towards blogs with a story to tell–even if it’s about the clothing.

      • catherine
        Author
        February 18, 2019 / 6:06 pm

        I have to admit I find the constant liketKnowit references annoying, Cathe!! But if us Brits followed the guidelines to the letter, then almost everything would be tagged with #ad and then the ones that are REALLY ads – i.e. paid promotions – would just get lost and then nothing looks like an ad… this happens in Germany where they have to put “Werbung” for really ambiguous associations with a brand. Nearly every post is labelled Werbung so you really can’t tell what is actually paid for 🙁

    • catherine
      Author
      February 18, 2019 / 6:03 pm

      Our rules are written MORE for Instagram, Sue – the language used in our guidelines are very much geared towards social media, not blogs! The liketknow.it stuff is a grey area – I don’t use it myself because it’s SO much work for very little return (and anyway we have stories where we can add links now) – so it just proves that our CMA didn’t consult with bloggers/influencers or they’d know this and tell us what to do where it’s concerned.

      I guess that as you have to go to the trouble of following someone on a separate app, you should, in theory, know that you’re clicking on links with an affiliate programme. A bit like the fact that adverts on TV are adverts, and we all KNOW they’re adverts… they don’t have to say THESE ARE ADVERTS AND WE’RE SELLING STUFF TO YOU every time (though wouldn’t it be funny if TV companies DID have to start doing that)?!!!!

      I do see #ad quite a bit on my feed, (I guess it depends who you follow…) – but even after all this some are still putting it at the end of a long caption, not right at the beginning. Goes to show the guidelines are not necessarily working as well as they should 🙁

  11. February 2, 2019 / 3:43 pm

    I so appreciate you clarifying this for us and I understand the need for transparency. But it’s a bit annoying that it’s gone as far as it has for us bloggers – I feel as if common sense has left the building! xx

    • catherine
      Author
      February 18, 2019 / 6:07 pm

      It has DEFINITELY left the building Maria, I agree!!! x

  12. February 2, 2019 / 2:34 pm

    Catherine, I’m pretty sure I’ve turned down the exact same skincare collaboration – and for exactly the same reason!

    I’m adopting much the same approach as you are to all of this, I think. The only thing that still concerns me is the whole ‘past relationships’ thing – I mean, I currently have hair extensions, which were supplied and fitted free of charge. I disclosed this in the post I wrote about the process, and I also disclose it in any post that directly refers to my hair, but as the extensions are (obviously!) attached to my head, I’m now worried that any photo of me AT ALL is now automatically supposed to be an advert, even if it has nothing to do with hair?

    • catherine
      Author
      February 18, 2019 / 6:10 pm

      OMG you did, Amber – I bet you chocked on your tea like I did when you saw the prices in their range?!!!!!!

      VERY good point about your hair extensions! It would mean that if you appeared in every post on your IG (pretty much all of mine have my mug in it, lol) then EVERY post would have to be declared as ad #ad, if you took it literally. About time they consulted people who actually DO this stuff, isn’t it #hmmmm

  13. jodie filogomo
    February 2, 2019 / 2:30 pm

    Should it be so confusing?? I’m sure it’s just the lawyers and their legal talk to try to have every point covered. But it does seem like they could simplify it.
    I think most of the bloggers I know try to be honest, and isn’t that the most we can do?
    XOOX
    Jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com

    • catherine
      Author
      February 18, 2019 / 6:12 pm

      The trouble is Jodie they obviously had the guidelines compiled by someone who DOESN’T blog, or they’d know that so much of it is ambiguous. And that we have many scenarios where the rules don’t make sense.

      Most of the bloggers I know well are honest, but unfortunately there are an awful lot who aren’t, sadly 🙁

  14. February 2, 2019 / 1:57 pm

    So well written as usual Mrs S!
    I love the fact that you were not negative about it too!
    I think this has all kicked off now because Zoella got into trouble recently regarding the new rules and highlighted the problem?

    Ashley xxxx

    • catherine
      Author
      February 18, 2019 / 6:13 pm

      Thank you Ashley – yeah I think it was Zoella and some Love Island or other reality TV “celebs”. I guess we’ll get there (making sense of it all) eventually…!

  15. February 2, 2019 / 12:34 pm

    Wow, that’s a lot of information to take in. I need to read it again. I love a good visual flow chart, that’s where the pennies will drop with me. Thank you for putting this post together. I appreciate there is a lot of time and affort there. I have noticed a few people mentioning this and didn’t know the whole deal, so now I do, thanks to you.
    Alison xx

    • catherine
      Author
      February 18, 2019 / 6:13 pm

      The flow chart is probably the best bit of it all, Alison!! Hope the post helps, thank you! x

  16. Danish Pastry
    February 2, 2019 / 12:19 pm

    As usual you get it spot on!
    I’d like to think that I could spot content that isn’t true to the blogger whose writing it, so I’d probably think it’s probably paid content. If however it was paid content, and totally in keeping with the person who’s writing it, would I be particularly bothered? No, not really – I’d be pleased that this person whose content I like to read is actually getting some recompense for work done. The same with affiliated links, I’m no less likely to use the link if it’s affiliated, in fact if I’m going to buy the item I’d be more than happy for the person inspiring the purchase getting a few pennies in exchange!
    Yes I like transparency, but in the end I don’t follow people I find disingenuous and this isn’t just limited to whether or not they are up front on the ad front. I suppose that’s one reason we connect when we’re shown more than fashion/ lifestyle content, as we get more of a feel for the person!

    • catherine
      Author
      February 18, 2019 / 6:15 pm

      Very well observed, hon – and yes I agree about unfollowing people who are disingenuous. But WHY do they do it… they last thing I want to do is piss off my followers, so why would I try and hide paid promotions from them? After all, if you’re trying to hide it you probably shouldn’t be working with that brand!!

      Thank you for being so supportive of us! x

  17. February 2, 2019 / 11:53 am

    I think if there was a “Best and Most Informative Global Blogger” award, you would win first place!!! Thanks for another informative post.
    Being in the USA , there’sOTHER areas that need to be a priority in good practice. But we don’t really have the in-depth regulatios that you do.
    However…….when I work with skincare, wig, and other brands (and a small amount at that) I’m always transparent! Since I like to tell a story, I’ll incorporate the product into both an in-depth review and an interesting and funny read. And on my Instagram feed I’m always very transparent—always using hashtags and tags for the companies.
    Now—-what I don’t like, is reading a blog, or going to an IG feed that is a blatant ad with no transparency. I’ve unfollowed and unsubscribed to many blogs and IG feeds that were purely side hustles with verbiage such as “like my outfit then click the like it to know it….blah blah blah” I like a personal touch and if I’m buying clothing I’ll head to my beloved J.Crew website or get off my lazy ass and head to the mall! A blog or feed to garner my interest about a product will tell a story! Well, I certainly have gone on and on! Keep being your great self!!! And thank you!!!!!

    • catherine
      Author
      February 18, 2019 / 6:17 pm

      Oh wow Cathe thank you, that’s a great comment!!

      I agree – the best way to show our dislike for someone lacking in transparency is to unfollow. Hopefully it’ll happen more now that this has come into the public’s attention more 😀

  18. February 2, 2019 / 10:56 am

    Very interesting, Catherine, yet all so confusing! I fear I have been labeling things completely incorrectly all along. (shoulder shrug) And I will probably continue to do it all wrong. My head is spinning a little despite your efforts to give some clarification to the whole big mess! Thanks for breaking it down though. I will need to pay closer attention to how I am labeling things. Now I need to start saving some money so I can try that $1200 face cream you did not endorse! Hahahaha.

    Shelbee
    http://www.shelbeeontheedge.com

    • catherine
      Author
      February 2, 2019 / 11:02 am

      Don’t forget that these are UK guidelines, Shelbee – although they are pretty similar to your FTC guidelines it’s best you check what is required of you in the US. Though to be honest I do think that if you’re transparent about what’s been paid and what’s been gifted (not using jargon like #spon for example and not hiding the disclosure) then I don’t think anyone is EVER going to come after you.

      Anyway I hope you enjoy that USD1200 cream… I might try it myself – if I don’t look exactly like Jennifer Lopez afterwards I won’t be recommending it, that’s for sure!!!!!!!!!! haha 😉

  19. February 2, 2019 / 10:18 am

    This is so useful Catherine thank you very much xx

    • catherine
      Author
      February 2, 2019 / 10:56 am

      Pleasure, Michelle! x

  20. February 2, 2019 / 3:33 am

    Very interesting and very sad. Sad because they are always trying to come with guidelines that someone who doesn’t do the activitiy comes up with. Sorry for getting on my soapbox. Thanks for hosting and I hope that you have a wonderful week.

    • catherine
      Author
      February 2, 2019 / 10:16 am

      I was on a VERY large soapbox on this post, Patrick, so don’t worry!! I agree that yes – they never seem to confer with the relevant people when sorting these things out. It would save all the confusion…!

    • catherine
      Author
      February 2, 2019 / 10:20 am

      I’m glad, Julie – thank you!

  21. February 1, 2019 / 11:12 pm

    Oh m g, what a lot of information! I need to read and re-read I think, maybe over the weekend when I have more time. Thanks for your so informative posts Catherine, so appreciate your help. Jacqui Mummabstylish

    • catherine
      Author
      February 2, 2019 / 10:32 am

      Yes it’s a hella lot of info Jacqui… and this is a condensed version!! I’d definitely recommend a re read, it’s a lot to take in x

  22. February 1, 2019 / 11:00 pm

    I think they should pay YOU to explain everything to us Catherine. The whole thing is way to convoluted and seems to change on a regular basis. I understand this is a relatively new situation in terms of social media, paid influencers and brands but for goodness sake can they just be sensible!
    In any case us bloggers can always rely on you to sort through the nonsense and simplify everything. What would we do without you my darling?
    xxx

    • catherine
      Author
      February 2, 2019 / 10:35 am

      VERY convoluted, MT!! I think they’ve made what could be a simple system incredibly complicated – it allows for much confusion so the more unscrupulous influencers will bend the system I’m sure, leading to MORE guidelines later on #eyeroll

      And thank you… I always love your faith in me!!! x

  23. February 1, 2019 / 7:08 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful post, Catherine!! I don’t live in the UK but these are good rules to live by anywhere. I like the flow chart and your clearly-laid-out guidelines for your own posts. I need a clear system like this.

    Question: how can it be right that an influencer’s obligations to write #ad continue for a whole year when a brand/sponsorship agreement was only for one post? It seems one-sided to me. Or I am not understanding this correctly?

    Thanks for the linkup. My post is about the new menocore trend. !!!???

    • catherine
      Author
      February 2, 2019 / 10:37 am

      The flow chart is actually the best bit, Melanie! And I agree that the relationship having to be declared for a year is ridiculous – it means that posts will be saturated with #ad here and #ad there, meaning we then can’t see what really IS an ad and what really IS a paid partnership.

      So yes, you understood it correctly… unfortunately that’s what they’re asking us to do!!

  24. February 1, 2019 / 7:05 pm

    I feel like you need a legal degree to fully comprehend these guidelines, and even so, that might not be enough! That said, I try to be as transparent as possible, and I only work with brands that I believe in. Case in point: I have a current campaign with Bioré, which I already use (and have for years). But I have a feeling that not everyone is as ethical as you and I are, and anecdotally speaking, it’s the influencers with millions of followers who really need to heed these rules.
    Cheryl Shops | http://www.cherylshops.net

    • catherine
      Author
      February 2, 2019 / 10:42 am

      You’re right that it’s the mega influencers who aren’t heeding the rules, Cheryl – they’ve been around for ages (the rules I mean) and those of us who are already disclosing properly are getting more, complicated rules thrown at us because a few couldn’t be bothered to simply write #ad at the beginning of a post. Good to know that you too work with brands you believe in, as I think the majority of those in our 40+ community do!

      But as always, it’s the few that spoil it for the majority unfortunately 🙁

  25. February 1, 2019 / 6:30 pm

    I read the guidelines and picked up on control also being defined as the brand providing a list from which you select the item, so not the complete portfolio of goods. Many brands limit you to select from new stock or latest range etc.

    The other point I noticed in your article as a quote from the CMA Sept press release was reference to Star. So are we Stars. When did a tiny blogger like me become a star?

    Confusing somewhat eh.

    • catherine
      Author
      February 2, 2019 / 10:48 am

      Thanks Anna! I’ve read the articles and guidelines again and I couldn’t see a part about control including having to choose from a selection… if you see this comment could you point me in the direction of it please? It would be good to add it to the post.

      That said, I don’t see how on earth the CMA or ASA would actually know that we had to choose a gifted item from a selection rather than from a full range. And to be honest, if it means the difference between something being declared as “Ad – gifted item” or “Gifted item” then to be honest, from a consumer point of view I really don’t care…!! The influencer has declared it – that’s good enough for me.

      You’re right about the point about “stars” – it’s a ridiculous term. Are they going to give a definition of what they mean by “star”? And as I’ve read from other bloggers commenting on the new guidelines – does this mean that someone’s mum or sister who ISN’T a blogger/influencer etc. who has “featured” something on their Instagram that they bought with a voucher from a brand has to then declare it as an ad?? This is where the guidelines fall down as they haven’t been clear enough about the definition of “influencer” and “star” 🙁

  26. February 1, 2019 / 6:22 pm

    Oh my goodness, what a palava! On the one hand, I like a bit of transparency, but also it annoys me that bloggers are getting all the criticism about this issue. What about all the product placement in all the film and television programmes we watch? Shouldn’t they have to put #ad up on the screen every time a character takes a sip of coke? What about when a film star walks the red carpet in a gifted dress; every time a different news channel asks what they’re wearing should they literally begin their sentence with ‘hashtag gifted’? When a sportsperson uses a particular brand of tennis racquet? It’s common for television presenters to have a relationship with clothing brands, but they aren’t declared at the beginning of every show. I think Ikea kit out most sitcoms but that isn’t declared. But bloggers are expected to jump through hoops to keep them happy. As usual, because it’s a new form of media that isn’t properly understood by some, we get all the blame.
    Ok; rant over! Thank you so much Catherine for putting in all the hard work to help out us bloggers so we we’re all clued up as to what is expected – that’s really helpful and appreciated 🙂
    Best wishes
    Helen x

    • catherine
      Author
      February 2, 2019 / 10:53 am

      I’m 100% WITH YOU on all those points about product placement, Helen – I thought about including those points in the post but it was already very long… I feared the post would get ridiculously long if I added them too!! You’re absolutely right that influencers seemed to bear the brunt of these sorts of crackdowns. I’m sure it’s as much to do with resentment that part of what we do includes receiving “free gifts”, despite working on our blogs and social media for years to produce free content for people – with no payment.

      Anyway, rant over(!) – thank you for your comment and for so eloquently expressing another part of the argument that I fully agree with!! x

  27. February 1, 2019 / 6:12 pm

    Wow! Lots of info that I’ll have to read later when I’m more awake! Thanks!
    The handy chart is, well, HANDY!
    (I obviously need some coffee).

    • catherine
      Author
      February 2, 2019 / 10:55 am

      Hehe go and get some coffee, Anne – and gird your loins. It’s a long read I’m afraid (with a fair bit of ranting). Wait till you get to the articles/guidelines I’ve linked to… you’ll need the caffeine!!!!!! 😉

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