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Rules made to be broken - Is your favourite beauty guru breaking the law?


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The debate of influencers being paid to post content on behalf of brands has been ongoing in the beauty community for what feels like a lifetime now.

Image credit: Pixabay

Fans have been known to vocalise disappointment in their favourite bloggers/vloggers/MUAs who turn to sponsored posts, as they find it difficult to trust the opinion of someone who has been clearly paid to speak highly of a product. On the other end, influencers quite rightly argue that they need to earn a living from the effort that goes into creating content, and often claim they wouldn’t parter with brands they didn't support in the first place.


Whatever your stance on the issue, what is really worth considering is whether your favourite influencer is approaching these sponsored partnerships legally. Despite social media being the norm now for over a decade, the guidelines set for advertising on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram still haven’t been made entirely clear for brands or influencers, resulting in many of them landing themselves in hot water.

However, on the 28th September an ‘Influencer’s Guide’ was finally published by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) outlining everything an influencer needs to know before publishing a sponsored post, including:

  • What the relevant rules are
  • What the ASA considers to be an ad
  • How to make clear that ads are ads
  • What the CMA's requirements are
  • What happens if someone makes a complaint to the ASA about a social post

Of course, this is a step in the right direction and the guide itself is fairly clear and easy to follow. However, in a world where hundreds of celebrities and budding beauty gurus alike are uploading perfectly posed snaps of the latest skincare fad with ‘#spon’ hidden amongst the caption’s tags, how easy will it be to enforce?

According to the ASA, whilst TV and radio advertising has to be cleared prior to airing, non-broadcast media (such as social media posts) cannot be monitored beforehand, as the speed of publication and the weight is so great. However, guidelines are there for the publisher to follow if they wish, and the public has the right to file a complaint if they feel an advertisement has been mislabelled.

The issue here is that by the time a complaint has been filed and dealt with, the instant nature of social media means that the post has already been out there for the world to see for at least a good few hours. It doesn’t help that the ASA prefer to resolve these issues informally, by requesting any offending posts be removed or edited with no further repercussions if done so, essentially leaving influencers with a loophole to post whatever they like, just for a limited time (if they get reported at all). As the saying goes - it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

The only real punishment these influencers face is the possibility of a slightly damaged reputation, as with Made In Chelsea’s Louise Thompson, who was recently reported to have been issued her second warning from the ASA for an Instagram story promoting a GlowSpin facial brush without any clear indication of payment. The issue was allegedly informally resolved with Louise apologising and promising to ensure that future Instagram stories would be appropriately labeled.

Despite various reports doing the rounds on the reality star’s blunders, she’s still raking in those all-important Insta likes, so it looks unlikely that she faced any real consequences. Whilst I'm not accusing Louise of purposely breaching these rules, this seems to be such a common occurrence amongst the Insta-elite, and there is still no evidence of anyone facing any actual repercussions.

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Of course, it would be ludicrous to expect every post on a high-profile social media account to be pre-approved, or every mislabelled #ad to be formally assessed - but the introduction of this guide is not the final answer to the issue. There is still a long road ahead and as long as influencers keep getting away unscathed, these rules will continue to be broken.

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