Date of ruling: 28 June 2019
Tribunal: Directorate of the Advertising Regulatory Board
Relevance of the ruling
This ruling from the Directorate of the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) addresses the requirements on social media influencers who advertise products on their social media platforms. An influencer is defined in Appendix K of the Code of Advertising Practice (Social Media Code) as:
[A]n individual or group who brands pay to engage with social media in a certain way, on a certain topic or in the promotion of a brand or publisher. Often an influencer has or is perceived to have the ability to influence the behaviour or opinions of others, but this is not prescriptive to fulfil the role of a paid influencer.
Notably, the ARB held that influencers are always required to disclose their relationship with advertisers, regardless of whether they are paid money or provided with goods in exchange for their services. In the present matter, this disclosure was required even though the influencer had not been paid for her services, but only provided with a product to test and asked to share her views on it.
The complainant submitted a complaint to the ARB against an Instagram post advertising Volvo cars. The crux of the complaint was that social media influencer, Kandy Kane, had not identified the material in the post as advertising.
In response, the advertiser submitted that the partnership agreement with Kane was mainly a form of trade exchange, with no financial investment. In this regard, the influencer got to drive the car for a period and then asked to share her experiences on her social media account.
Following the complaint, the initial post was amended to clarify the partnership between Kane and Volvo Car South Africa, reflecting the non-financial investment partnership.
Findings of the ARB
At the outset, noting that the issue of social media influencers is a new and important one, the Directorate of the ARB highlighted the relevant provisions of the Code of Advertising Practice. Of particular relevance, clause 4 of Appendix K (Social Media Code) states that: “To ensure full transparency, publishers and influencers are required to disclose if they were provided (permanently or on loan) with goods or services in return for media coverage (whether this is expressly stated or not). This helps reinforce publisher or influencer integrity while clearly allowing the consumer to make an informed opinion of the applicable content, product or service.”
According to the Directorate of the ARB, this means that influencers are required to disclose their relationship, whether it is money or goods that has been exchanged.
In the present matter, the Directorate of the ARB concluded that the advertiser had undertaken to ensure that the advertising was amended in a manner that addressed the complaint at hand, and as such this undertaking was accepted in resolution of the matter.
The ruling is accessible (via the ARB website) here.
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