Advertising in the form of a tweet, blog, Instagram post or story is to be scrutinised over concerns that consumers should not have to “play the detective” with online content.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has launched a call for evidence as part of a project exploring consumers’ ability to recognise online “ads as ads”.
The ASA said it was responding to a trend of advertisers entering into commercial relationships with social media influencers and online publishers, which had sometimes resulted in a “blurring of the lines” between advertising and editorial content.
The project will also focus on so-called “native advertising”, for example when a brand pays to have a written article featured on a site that carries similar stories, and whether current regulations around the labelling of such campaigns is clear enough for readers.
This in turn had led to confusion and frustration among consumers and uncertainty among influencers and online publications about when and how content should be labelled as advertising.
The ASA said it remained “key” that ads must be obviously recognisable as such to consumers, and the call for evidence was the starting point for determining whether it is “getting it right” on ad labelling online.
ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: “Social influencer and native advertising might be relatively new but the advertising rules haven’t changed – people shouldn’t have to play the detective to work out if they’re being advertised to.
“That means the status of a tweet, blog, vlog, Instagram post or story should be clear.
“Our call for evidence will play an important part in helping us understand how consumers recognise and respond to online labelling of ads and how we apply the rules in this area.”