Are bigger bloggers and influencers who STILL aren’t declaring ‘AD’ properly giving us all a bad name?
I mean, in short, the answer to that is a definitive ‘yes’, isn’t it? But, please humour me while I rant for a little while longer…
Just over a year ago, the ASA published a new set of guidelines for ‘influencers’. They’re really very simple to get your head around, if you actually bother to read them. I did, although admittedly they don’t affect someone as small-fry and unimportant as me that much.
Unfortunately for us all, there are many bloggers and influencers out there who still aren’t obeying these rules and are flouting these guidelines on a daily basis. It’s a really disappointing and frustrating thing to witness every single time I scroll through Instagram. So, let me elaborate as to where they’re still going wrong today:
The problem with ‘press trip’
‘Press trip’ is increasingly being used by bloggers and influencers to mark when they’re given a gifted holiday. Technically, according to the guidelines, even if it’s not an outright ‘AD’ because the brand you’re working with hasn’t explicitly asked for creative control, you can bet your bottom dollar that they’re going to expect that you’ll post something or other while you’re there – so, really, it’s an ad. And that needs to be disclosed to your audience, who deserve transparency from the off.
It’s really getting on my nerves, to be honest, this constant overuse of ‘press trip’. Or even ‘we were guests of (insert expensive boutique hotel name here)’. It just doesn’t cut it in terms of being clear enough, does it?
Bloggers who I’ve loved and admired for years are doing it all the more, and with a heavy heart, it’s making me want to unfollow them. Honestly. Press trip doesn’t feature at all in the guidelines, and I have no idea which shrewd blogger first starting using it, causing an influx of others to follow in their shady footsteps; but it’s like huge swathes of the industry are now using this as standard terminology for gifted holidays and experiences – and do you know what? It’s not really on.
‘Swipe up to shop’
Do you know what else really isn’t on? Bloggers and influencers using affiliate links in their Instagram Stories without declaring that they’re making money from them.
Affiliate links are now classed as an AD.
Yeah, you could argue that it isn’t really fair, but you don’t make the rules and neither do I.
So, they need to be disclosed. Whether they’re marked as ‘aff link’ or ‘ad’ doesn’t really matter that much.
What DOES matter is that your followers know from the off that they’re making you money… It’s a matter of simple transparency here.
And there are plenty of bigger bloggers who still aren’t playing ball with this too. I’ve actually unfollowed some who I’ve followed and supported for years because of this. It’s not fair. It’s shady to pull the wool over your followers’ eyes like that. If you’re lucky enough to have a medium to large audience, at least have the decency to respect them properly.
‘blah blah blah [#ad]’
Can you see the problem with that pretend Instagram photo caption? In case you’re not as familiar with the ASA guidelines as I am, I’ll tell you: the ‘AD’ isn’t at the start – which is exactly where it needs to be.
Repeat after me: AD goes at the start.
It really isn’t hard to remember, but there are bloggers and influencers out there who are still failing to do this.
How are they still getting away with it?
It’s insane the amount of times I can scroll through Instagram and see a tiny little ‘#ad’ at the end of a two or more paragraph caption – well after the ‘more’ button. (A lot of followers simply scrolling along won’t even bother expanding for more information, so they’ll be unaware that it was even an ad in the first place – which is literally what the rules are for; to stop that from happening.)
Probably the most important part of the ASA guidelines are that it needs to be clear from the start that it’s either gifted or sponsored content. It needs to be completely obvious as soon as a reader or follower looks at it that it’s making you money, or that you got something for free in exchange for content. If it’s right at the end of a long-winded caption, it’s hardly obvious from the off, is it?
Incidentally, this article has quite interesting stats on a study done on the placement of ad declarations from influencers. (Spoiler: if it’s not clear enough, people don’t realise that it’s an ad.)
‘I’m making my own rules up’
I mean, really?
Do you honestly think that you’re so special that you can elevate yourself above the rules that the rest of us mere mortals have to abide by?
I don’t think so.
Yes, there are genuinely people out there who’ve declared: ‘I’m not happy with this, so I’m making my own rules up’… There are no words for that level of arrogance. Honestly, even an ardent rambler like me has got virtually nothing to say to that. It leaves me astounded that anyone could have such little regard for industry standards, especially if it’s part of their job.
I don’t like criticising other bloggers and influencers like this. I really don’t. But if we’re willing to support each other, we should also be willing to call out unacceptable behaviour too. I hate ranting like this, but this has been going on for months, and it seems like it’s only getting worse.
An AD is an AD. It’s honestly a simple enough concept that followers deserve to know that, isn’t it? Whether it’s purely gifted, or whether the brand have wrestled some creative control from them, it’s still something that they’re benefitting from, either financially, or with free products as a bare minimum.
Being forced to declare something is not a punishment, it’s not unfair, it’s not making life difficult for bloggers and influencers. But what is unfair is being disingenuous to the very people who’ve supported you.
At the end of the day, no matter how easy blogging or Instagramming for a living looks, it must be harder than it appears. I get that. It must be hard living your whole life online like that, but conversely, they’re still very privileged to be doing that for a living. Their followers don’t have to follow them, and so I think the ones that are still failing to declare properly need to treat their audience with a little more respect.
I also understand that we’re all floundering a little. Lots of us started out in the industry during the many years it was almost entirely unregulated, and now there are big rules in place that need abiding. It takes some time to adjust to, I understand that. But, I think those that still aren’t playing by the rules over a year later are probably going to continue to flout them forever. Unless they get a warning from the ASA or their audience points out their mistakes repeatedly or unfollow them en masse, nothing will change.
And that’s sad, because it impacts all of us. We, in general, get a bad enough rep as it is, and we certainly don’t need big names dragging us down as a whole like this.
What are your thoughts on this?
Enjoyed this post? You might also like: Being More Present: Why I’m Getting Sick of Creating ‘Content’, Why Instagram Isn’t Really My Priority Right Now (And Why It’s Fine If You Feel The Same!), or maybe even An Afternoon in the Peak District.