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ASA continues to focus on Influencer Marketing in 2020

Continuing its 2019 focus on Influencer Marketing in the first round of published adjudications for 2020, the ASA upholds complaints about Instagram Posts by Influencers Francesca Perks and Jack Remmington promoting Southern Comfort.

Francesca Perks’ Instagram post from 29 October 2019 included two images, the first of Perks holding a cocktail and the second of a cocktail on a table with a bottle of Southern Comfort in the background. The caption included ‘AD’ and referred to Perks’ love of cocktails.

Jack Remmington’s Instagram post from 29 October 2019 included two similar images including one featuring Remmington and a friend of his. The caption included ‘#ad’ and referred to Remmington’s cocktail creation incorporating Southern Comfort.

The consumer complaints in this instance were not about labelling (perhaps indicating that the ASA’s focus on educating brands and Influencers about the importance of labelling is finally sinking in) but rather concerned whether the ads, which were promoting alcohol, breached the Code because they featured individuals who appeared to be, or were, under 25 years of age.

Southern Comfort responded stating that at the time of posting Perks was 22. On receipt of the ASA complaint notification they requested Perks immediately remove the post from her feed. In contrast, Remmington and the friend featured in his ad were both 25 years of age.

Despite this swift response and action by the Southern Comfort team, the ASA upheld the complaints.

The CAP Code states that people shown in adverts drinking alcohol or those playing a significant role in an ad for alcohol must not be, or even seem to be, under 25 years of age. Perks and Remmington (together with his friend) were the focus of the ads and each therefore played a ‘significant role’ in the marketing of Southern Comfort.

Southern Comfort’s swift request to Perks to remove the post was appreciated by the ASA but they remained concerned that the advertiser had chosen to work with someone who was 22 in the first place. As a result the ad, despite its swift removal, was deemed to breach the CAP Code.

In relation to Remmington’s post the ASA was concerned that while Remmington and his friend were both 25 years old they appeared younger. Again, the ad was deemed to breach the CAP Code.

The key takeaways for advertisers in relation to these ads is two-fold:

  • Don’t forget that Influencer marketing will be treated much like any advertisement. The ASA is not just worried about labelling, it is concerned with compliance with the CAP Code more generally.
  • Brands advertising age-restricted products (alcohol, e-cigarettes, gambling etc.) need to be careful to ensure that those featured in the ad are not only over the recommended age limit but also clearly appear that way. Brands should also carefully consider the age demographic of the individual’s followers and consider whether they are in fact the most appropriate people to advertise their products.

We told Sazerac UK Ltd t/a Southern Comfort to ensure that those drinking alcohol or playing a significant role in their future advertising must neither be, nor seem to be, under 25 years of age.

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