Fur warning: the rules that apply to pet influencers

Mar 23rd '23

Whether the star of a social media page is a human or a charismatic pet, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code still applies to online ads. And no matter how furry the influencer, the brand that’s being advertised will still be held at least jointly responsible if those ads breach the Code. Read on to find out how to ensure your ads don’t get cur-tailed by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).


  • Confirm whether it’s an ad

It’s important to know whether content you are posting on social media counts as ‘advertising’. If it falls within the ASA’s remit, the CAP Code in its entirety will apply, and there are many different rules that could apply depending on the types of claims in the post, and on the product being advertised.


If it features a brand or product and you have a direct commercial interest in people buying it – either because you’ve signed up to an affiliate scheme or because you’ve got a stake in the sales – it counts as an ad. So, whether you’re including a discount code, affiliate link, or just showing off your own merchandise with your pet’s adorable face on it, you still need to follow the advertising rules.


Also, when a brand gives you a ‘payment’ or an ‘other reciprocal arrangement’ (e.g., any form of monetary payment, loan of a product/service, any incentive or commission or a product/service has been given free), to create a piece of content – that content is likely to become subject to consumer protection law. When a brand also has some control over the content, it becomes subject to the CAP Code as well.


For further guidance see Influencers’ guide to making clear that ads are ads.


  • Make it obvious that it’s an ad

If your post is an ad, this needs to be obvious to anyone seeing the post. You can’t rely on disclosures in the bio, or on people already knowing about your pet’s commercial relationships with brands, since many users will see posts in their feed without any context.


The simplest way of making it obvious is with a prominent label like “Ad”. This should be placed right at the start of the post, or in a position where it’s one of the first things people see. It’s not good enough to place it at the end or halfway through. People need to know it’s an ad right away.


Other labels like “spon”, “aff”, “Supported by”, “Funded by”, “Gifted”, “In association with…” and “Thanks to [brand name]” aren’t likely to be considered clear enough by the ASA. Though they imply there’s a relationship with a brand, they’re unlikely to make sufficiently clear that the post is advertising.


For further guidance see Influencers’ guide to making clear that ads are ads.


  • Be responsible

Even if your pet is happy and healthy, you shouldn’t show them doing anything that could be dangerous or irresponsible for other pets or their owners to emulate. That’s because the behaviour you show in ads can be seen as condoning or encouraging other people (or pets) to do the same. So even if it isn’t the intention, you should avoid showing any behaviour that could potentially harm a pet or be considered animal cruelty if others try it.  For further advice, see guidance on ‘Animals’.


  • Think about the product you’re advertising

It’s also important to think carefully about whether it’s responsible to advertise particular products on a pet’s social media page. For example, if a particular type of product is poisonous or hazardous to dogs, it’s probably not a good idea to advertise that kind of product on an account that’s all about dogs.


The CAP Code doesn’t just contain rules on how to label your pet’s social media ads, or how to make sure they aren’t misleading and don’t cause offence. There are also Sections of the Code that apply to specific types of products. If you’re advertising food, for example, there are strict rules about what kind of health or nutrition claims you can make. So, it’s important to check which rules you need to follow for different products.


Source: CAP


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