Online affiliate marketing involves an individual celebrity or influencer marketing brands to their online following, often through social media apps such as Instagram, in return for (usually) a percentage of each resulting sale.

In March 2017, the UK's Committee of Advertising Practice ("CAP")1 issued new advice, addressed to both brands and influencers, which provides guidance on how to ensure that online affiliate marketing activity is CAP Code2 compliant.

Significantly, the guidance restates in no uncertain terms that where affiliate marketers advertise a brand's goods online and fail to disclose or make clear their commercial relationship with the linked-to products, both that individual and the featured brand will be in breach of the CAP Code.

This guidance arrives in tandem with related action being taken in the U.S. by the Federal Trade Commission against affiliate marketers who fail to disclose "clearly and conspicuously" where there is a "material connection" between the endorser and the brand.

The consensus of regulators across the globe appears to be that consumers have the right to be made aware at first glance of circumstances where an individual is acting with commercial intent rather than as a consumer or for purposes outside his or her trade, business or profession.

This means, brands, that you may find yourself in hot water with the CAP and the ASA for posts which feature your brand even where you have had absolutely no input in the creation and publication of the materials. It is therefore your responsibility to ensure that people know that an article, vlog, blog, tweet, post or page posted by your affiliate marketers is an ad before they click on or open it.