A recent news report (see here) caught our attention as it highlighted another instance of a celebrity brand endorsement on social media – or rather, yet another instance of a celebrity getting their wrist slapped by the Advertising Standards Authority (‘ASA’) for failing to adhere to the UK’s advertising rules in posts on social media.

Regular readers of our blog will recall our recent feature on ‘Celebrity brand endorsements on social media – what are the rules?’ in which we explored this very topic. Celebrity brand endorsements on social media fall within the remit of ‘marketing communications’ and are consequently subject to scrutiny by the ASA. In short, the ASA requires transparency from celebrities in signalling to consumers when they are being paid to promote a product rather than just expressing their personal opinion about it. Prominent use of the hashtag ‘#ad’ or ‘#spon’ on the social media post concerned has been deemed to be sufficient to make the post ‘obviously identifiable’ as an advert and therefore compliant with ASA rules.

Whilst this might sound simple enough, celebrities are still repeatedly being tripped up for failing to use the #ad label (or similar) in posts to disclose their business relationships with the brands they are promoting. This recent case was the first to involve posts on the Snapchat platform, following an anonymous complaint that the images uploaded by the celebrity in question had not been identified as adverts. The complication with Snapchat is that the posts automatically self-delete, so the ASA’s usual punishment of requiring the offending post to be deleted is simply not applicable to this platform. Nonetheless, the same advertising rules still apply, so the parties concerned have agreed to abide by the #ad requirement moving forwards.

If the negative PR from being named-and-shamed by the ASA is not sufficiently off-putting to social media brand ambassadors to encourage them to toe the line, the ASA will have to resort to referring any repeat offenders to Trading Standards who can then take further action against them. One can speculate that a run-in with Trading Standards could compromise a brand ambassador’s earning potential from future sponsorship deals. After all, no brand sponsor wants to risks their adverts being taken down by public authorities.