Time to Face(book) facts about compliant marketing.
Launched in 2004 and named after student directories distributed at US universities, Facebook became available to anyone over the age of 13 with a valid email address in September 2006. Although not the first social networking website, it quickly established itself and, with around 36 million users in the UK, YouGov currently considers it to be the most popular social network, and the most famous.
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 Facebook.
Here are some of the key principles to help you save face and avoid an upheld ruling from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for your ads on Facebook.
Thumbs up for ad labels
As is true for all the other social media platforms, and indeed all media, advertising on Facebook – 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 and stories on Facebook include a prominent ‘Ad’ label. For posts, the label should usually appear prominently at, or very near, the beginning of the ad/text and stories need to include the label on the image(s) in a sufficiently prominent size and in a clearly contrasting font colour, so it isn’t missed by the audience. In contexts where only a title and thumbnail are visible, the label should be included at the beginning of the title so that it’s clear before people engage with the video.
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. It is not acceptable to put disclosures where they can only be seen by clicking “See more” or where they might be obscured by other buttons/text.
The ASA haven’t ruled formally on any influencer marketing labelling issues on Facebook to date, but they have resolved a significant number of cases informally and cross apply relevant principles from other platforms. For more detailed guidance on the principles, see the ‘Influencers’ guide to making clear that ads are ads’.
Know your friends and community
Ads must be socially responsible and part of this means protecting vulnerable people, such as children. For instance, you cannot create an ad for alcohol which appeals to people under the age of 18 or encourages excessive drinking.
Targeting is also important, particularly for certain types of content and for advertising of certain products like alcohol, gambling and HFSS foods. 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. Where specific targeting tools are not available, marketers should take into account robust evidence of the age demographic of the audience to ensure that it’s likely to be under 25% under-18s/16s, as required by the relevant rules.
Check-in with the ad rules for certain sectors and topics
From alcohol to gambling and motoring to vaping, there are plenty of rules and prohibitions that apply to different ads and products.
Ads for food 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 both brand marketing and influencer marketing.
Get the right reactions to your promotional marketing
Promotions must always be administered fairly and, amongst other things, promoters need to be able to demonstrate that prizes were awarded to genuine entrants who complied with the terms of entry, and in accordance with the laws of chance if it’s a prize draw.
For more on influencer marketing generally visit www.asa.org.uk/influencers to find all of CAP’s influencer marketing resources.
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