Earlier this year, The AANA introduced strict guidelines requiring that all paid ad posts by influencers include “clearly distinguishable” tags, such as the hashtag #ad or phrases like “paid partnership” or “advert” so consumers know that the content they’re seeing is part of a sponsored dealio. However, Aussie influencers appear to be skirting the guidelines by hiding their disclosures.
The first influencer to receive a slap on the wrist for breaking these guidelines was The Bachelor winner turned influencer, Anna Heinrich, who got sprung for breaching AANA’s distinguishable advertising rules.
After being informed of the issue, Anna Heinrich then edited her post to include a paid ad tag.
For any influencers reading this, here’s a handy guide, as pointed out by Ad Standards, to help you decide if your post needs the #ad or not:
a. Does the marketer have a reasonable degree of control over the material?
b. Does the material draw the attention of the public in a manner calculated to promote a product or service?
Shortly after, another influencer got pinged for failing to follow the guidelines, one Rozalia Russian.
The Melbourne-based influencer got done for a post that was shared in partnership with Tom Ford to help promote its Soleil Blanc perfume. The post did not include any of the tags or other requirements for a paid ad.
Since then, folks have spotted plenty of shady activity across Instagram where influencers are using sneaky as fuck methods to hide the ad tag.
Take, for example, The Bachelor 2020 runner-up Bella Varelis, who was called out by the new Celeb Spellcheck for her recent Instagram Story.
In two separate Instagram Stories, one to promote a coffee brand and the other to promote a sleepwear brand, Bella pulls the v. sneaky manoeuvre of editing the clips so the #ad tag quickly shows up a few seconds in, then disappears.
Shortly after being called out by Celeb Spellcheck 2.0, Bella Varelis removed both posts without comment or clarification. Naughty, naughty.
Elsewhere, one of her fellow influencers Shani Grimmond recently rolled out a partnership with Runaway The Label and just plopped down a code and a swipe up link.
Interestingly, this is the same brand that previously landed in strife via Anna Heinrich for sharing content without the ad tag.
“We encourage advertisers and influencers to ensure that posts disclose any arrangements (eg involving gifts or payments) between them in a clear and easily understood manner,” Ad Standards told PEDESTRIAN.TV.
“This may include hashtags (#ad, #sponsored, #PaidPartner), verbal recognition, and platform specific tagging methods such as Instagram’s ‘Paid Partnership’ disclaimer tag for timeline posts. We suggest that erring on the side of caution in relation to disclosure to ensure followers are fully informed is best practice.”
It’s unclear if Shani Grimmond is a paid partner with Runway or not, but even if it’s just a gift from the label, this could be a problem as this has not been explained in “a clear and easily understood manner,” as per Ad Standards’ guidelines.
A spokesperson for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently told Business Insider Australia that influencers are obligated under consumer law to divulge that their content is paid for.
“Under the Australian Consumer Law businesses should not engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive,” the spokesperson told the site.
“Misleading or deceptive conduct includes when an individual or business affects a consumer’s decision to purchase something based on false or misleading information, or by leaving out key information.
“For influencers, this could include a post that creates the impression that they use a product that they don’t or failing to disclose that they’ve been paid or received a good for posting content.”
They added, “The penalty for misleading and deceptive conduct is up to $500,000 for each post for an individual, or up to $10 million for a company.”
Look alive, influencers! The rules have changed and everyone’s a critic.
Matty Galea is the Entertainment Editor at Pedestrian who also dabbles in woo-woo stuff like astrology and crystals and has been penning horoscopes since the start of his career. He also Tweets about pop culture and astrology and posts spicy content on Instagram.