Advertising Standards Canada (ASC) has reported the first consumer complaint about an Instagram post by influencer who described her experience with a facial product, without disclosing that the post was sponsored by the cosmetic manufacturer.

ASC upheld the complaint under Clauses 1(b) and 2(b) of the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards (the “Code”), which state:

1. Accuracy and Clarity

(b) Advertisements must not omit relevant information if the omission results in an advertisement that is deceptive or misleading.

2. Disguised Advertising Techniques

No advertisement shall be presented in a format or style that conceals the fact that it is an advertisement

Council held that the Instagram post failed to disclose the relevant information namely, that the post contained sponsored content, and was disguised advertising.

It is interesting that the complaint was decided under Clauses 1(a) and 2(b) given the October 3, 2016 amendment to Clause 7 dealing with Testimonials and the accompanying Interpretation Guideline to Clause 7, which requires “clear and prominent” disclosure of any material connection between the influencer and the endorsed product or service and this disclosure must be made in close proximity to the representation. See our earlier article here. The complaint demonstrates that even absent the amendments to Clause 7, the Code was robust to address influencer marketing campaigns that do not disclose a material connection.

The cosmetic company was not identified in the case summary because the post was amended to include “#ad” after receiving the complaint and before Council met to decide the complaint.