A blog hiatus was inadvertently scheduled until February due to exams and the plan was to spend the week before Semester 2 starts planning content… and then the new CMA guidelines dropped. If you’re a blogger, or even just follow a few bloggers on Twitter, you’ll know what I’m on about. It’s all anyone has been able to talk about and I thought I should join the discussion into blogger transparency.
We all know there are certain ‘influencers’ who tend to flout the regulations the ASA update a few months ago. Those in question are usually the reality stars trying to sell you teeth whitening kits (which rarely work,) and skinny teas and coffees (which are basically just nice tasting laxatives,) none of which tend to be disclosed as ads. Most of these, as I mentioned, are reality stars and sadly it seems their lack of transparency had led to a massive clamp down on how we label content. In short, EVERYTHING now counts as a #AD, and threats of a 2 year prison sentence are being floated about for those who fail to comply.
Okay, so I may have been slightly exaggerating there but here’s a more detailed explanation:
- If you are paid for any kind of post it is an AD.
- If you are gifted any products, whether you are expecting them or not, and you include them in a post (whether the caption mentions them at all,) it is an AD (and you should probably specify which products were gifted).
- Discount and affiliate codes must be disclosed.
- Any past relationship with a brand (dating back 1 year) must be declared.
Ads as we know them have now changed completely. Normal ads remain but are now joined with any gifted product including post being an ad. Also, the most controversial change, declaration of brand partnership, even if the item you are discussing in that moment was purchased with YOUR OWN money. You can see why that appears to be the controversial aspect. This means that say you are sent something from your favourite clothing brand, even if you buy another item of clothing from them and then wear it and post something about it, you have to make it clear that you have worked with said brand in the last 12 months. I understand it to an extent, but it still seems rather crazy don’t you think!?
More details of the guidelines can be found on the government website.
Now onto how I am going to approach the new guidelines; hint I’m planning to comply. I will update my disclaimer accordingly, and probably more concisely than this post will, but I though a blog post would allow me to explain easily. I’m going to break my approach down platform by platform, mainly for my own clarity, but also to make this post less confusing – I hope.
Instagram: Probably the platform that started these crazy rules to begin with and arguably the one that will need the most changes. I’ve never done a proper AD on my feed as I am a small blogger, but if I ever do the caption will begin with AD | before I continue on with the caption. I am lucky enough to receive products from brands, I will be trying my best not to include those products in typical photos as otherwise every single post could be labelled an AD. When gifted products are included I will start the caption with AD | GIFTED, this will then differentiate from normal paid adverts and simply gifted products. I will at the end of the caption specify which products are the ones I was gifted, if it is not mentioned within the caption elsewhere. I will mention any prior affiliation with a brand at the end of a caption, or during if I can include it without it sounding disjointed.
Instagram Stories: I have never done a story that was paid for by a brand, but if I do it will have AD written in the top corner. If a story contains a gifted item, it will have AD | GIFTED in the top corner. If I am invited to an event, for example the opening of a bar, I will disclose this with AD | UNPAID as I will likely be compensated with food and drink, or something similar. I often unbox pr samples on stories, which will be labelled as above, however I often like to show you what I have bought. If an item I have bought is from a brand I have had a relationship with in the last year then this will also be labelled in the top corner.
Twitter: When promoting posts that contain gifted products I will begin the tweet with AD | GIFTED, if I am ever paid for a post and promote it, it will be labelled AD at the beginning.
Blog Posts: The disclaimer for this isn’t very different. If a post is an advert, it will be categorised as one and so will be visible from the homepage. A sponsorship will be labelled the same way as before. PR samples will remain tagged, have a disclaimer at the bottom of the post and the first paragraph will notify you that it the product(s) have been sent to me. In the rare case I have an affiliate link this will be labelled in brackets next to the link, and within the disclaimer at the bottom of the post.
Hopefully this clears up the changes I am making for you. Yes, it’s certainly going to make my content a little less free flowing, but transparency is key – you can’t buy back integrity. A lot of people wonder how this is going to be policed, and in a few months I’m sure the rules will be refined, I don’t think I’ll make another post with this much detail, I just wanted to clear up why my Instagram and Twitter posts may look like I am running a lot more ADs than I actually am!