The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) has upheld a complaint regarding an advertising collaboration between Rimmel Ireland and social media influencer Rosie Connolly. This finding is the first of its kind by the ASAI against such an influencer.

The advertisement in question included both a post on Rimmel’s Facebook account and a post on Ms. Connolly’s Instagram account featuring an image of the blogger promoting Rimmel make-up products she claimed to be wearing.

According to the ASAI, the complainant considered the advertisement to be misleading in nature as she said that the image of Miss Connolly’s face appeared to have been filtered and photo-shopped. The complainant felt that people may purchase this product hoping to achieve the same results but as the image had been altered this would not be the case.

Both parties responded to the complaint, with Ms. Connolly saying that Rimmel had approved images which she had forwarded them and that the complaint should have been addressed to them.

Rimmel stated that the post was not intended to mislead and that they had explicit guidelines in place in keeping with the guideline set out in the ASAI Code. Rimmel acknowledged that the image had been filtered and have since removed the post as they claimed it “does not reflect their value as a brand”.

Given the first-time nature of this complaint, the advertisers said that while this specific practice was not addressed in the ASAI guidelines, they had taken steps to avoid future issues with heavily filtered images including:

  1. explicit policy requirements for the use of any post-production techniques by any influencer to be flagged;
  2. any disclaimers to be made clearly visible in the materials; and
  3. stringent monitoring of all paid posts to ensure compliance with guidelines.

The Complaints Committee of the ASAI considered both the details of the complaint and also the response from both parties. As mentioned, while there are no specific guidelines in place for this particular practice, the Committee referred to the requirements of the ASAI Code that advertising:

  1. should not mislead (Section 4.1);
  2. should not exploit customers credulity, inexperience or lack of knowledge (Section 4.4); and
  3. that claims that consumers could be likely to regard as objectively true should not be made unless they could be substantiated (Section 4.9).

The Committee considered the use of post-production techniques in this case as potentially misleading and that the advertising was in breach of the above sections of the ASAI Code.

Further, the Committee also noted that “whilst disclaimers as to the use of such techniques could mitigate the extent to which the advertisement was likely to mislead, care was needed as even with disclaimers the overall effect of the advertisement could be that it misleadingly implied a product claim when such a claim could not be substantiated”.

Commenting on the latest ASAI rulings, Orla Twomey, Chief Executive of the ASAI, stated that:

“This is the first time a complaint about an influencer / blogger has been adjudicated on by the Complaints Committee. Over the past few years, we have spent considerable time highlighting awareness in relation to advertising best practice within this space to ensure all relevant parties are equipped with the knowledge and resources to correctly identify commercial marketing content across their platforms.”

The ASAI has stated that it is committed to protecting consumers in relation to advertising across all mediums, aiming to work with all advertisers and not against them to “ensure that all marketing communications are legal, truthful, decent and honest”.

This decision by the ASAI should be considered a timely reminder that offline advertising standards and consumer protections equally apply in the online world. A strategy to manage the legal risks associated with the use of social media should be seen as an essential part of reputation management for any brand.