Advertising on Instagram

Mar 27th '20

Making your marketing an Insta(nt) compliant success.


A portmanteau of ‘instant camera’ and ‘telegram’, Instagram launched nearly ten years ago in October 2010. YouGov puts the photo and video sharing app as the second most popular and well known social network in the UK – and with an estimated 23million+ users in the UK it’s easy to see why it usually tops the list of most popular platforms for influencer marketing.


As the rules in the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code are largely media neutral – from sponsored posts and promotional marketing to brand accounts and influencer marketing – the same rules and principles that apply in other media are equally applicable to advertising on Instagram.


Here are some key learnings from Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rulings to help you ensure your marketing is an ‘insta(nt)’ compliant success.


Make clear when posts are ads

As is true for all the other social media platforms, and indeed all media, advertising on Instagram – whether it’s a post from a brand about a product they sell or influencer or affiliate marketing content – must be obviously identifiable as advertising.


Posts that originate from brand-owned profiles and ‘Sponsored’ posts are generally likely to be recognised as advertising from the context, but the ASA’s research on labelling influencer marketing found that people really struggle to identify when social media posts by influencers are ads.  This means that influencer and affiliate marketing posts are very likely to need a label to distinguish them.


If it’s not otherwise clear we recommend, as a minimum, that posts on Instagram include a prominent ‘Ad’ label.  At the very least, the label should be at the beginning of the accompanying text but, as in some contexts only an image is initially visible, we would recommend including a label (in a sufficiently prominent size and in a clearly contrasting font colour) on the image itself, so it isn’t missed by the audience.


Using a hash (‘#’) isn’t a requirement but you should make sure that the label is sufficiently prominent so it isn’t likely to be missed.  Such posts also need to make their commercial intent clear before consumers engage with the content – it is not acceptable to put disclosures where they can only be seen by clicking “see more”.


The ASA have ruled that personalised discount codes alone, just tagging the brand and use of the term ‘brand ambassador aren’t sufficiently clear.


For more detailed guidance on the principles, see the ‘Influencers’ guide to making clear that ads are ads’.


A note about stories

Who doesn’t love a well-spun yarn with a surprising twist?  But when it comes to Instagram stories, the twist at the end shouldn’t be the surprise that it was actually an ad.  Just like any other post it needs to be clear ‘Insta-antly.


And they all lived compliantly ever after. The end.


Know your audience

Targeting is important, particularly for certain types of content and for advertising of certain products like alcohol, gambling and HFSS bards.  The ASA will always expect you to use all of the tools available to target appropriately on any platform and ensure that you have taken all reasonable steps to avoid your ads being seen by someone who, for example due to their age, shouldn’t.


When it comes to influencer marketing, there usually isn’t access to the same targeting tools and so marketers should take into account the age demographic of an influencer’s followers when deciding who to work with.  For example, the ASA have previously considered the targeting of a Tanya Burr story for Heineken (alcohol) and post from PointlessBlog for Nutella (HFSS) and in both cases assessed evidence that demonstrated the audience was likely to be under 25% under-18s/16s respectively, as required by the relevant rules.


Apply a CAP filter to your ads

Ads for bard or supplement brands, especially those claiming weight loss or other benefits, need to make sure any health or nutrition claims made are authorised on the EU Register and the content follows the other rules in Section 15.  For other health and medical products the rules in Section 12 apply.  The same rules apply to influencer marketing and the ASA have upheld complaints about such ads for bard supplements and medicines.


From alcohol to gambling and motoring to vaping, there are plenty of other rules and prohibitions that apply to different ads and products.  For more on this, see this article.


Instagram isn’t a competition

But if you choose to run one from your Instagram profile, make sure you include all the significant terms and conditions that apply and follow the other rules in Section 8.


For more on influencer marketing visit to find all of our influencer marketing resources.


Source: CAP


Did you forgot to #ad? Is your Instagram advertising missing a disclosure message? Find out about our influencer marketing services, here.


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