Just last week, the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) UK sought to clarify the blurred lines surrounding advertorial features in blog posts.
The memo warned that blog publishers could be found to be breaking the law if they receive payment in return for positive reviews or comments about a product or service, and do not disclose this agreement on site.
The ASA says, “The advertising rules, which apply across media including online, are very clear. Ads must be clearly identifiable as such. Put simply, a blogger who is given money to promote a product or service has to ensure readers are aware they’re being advertised to.”
The ASA does offer advice on how a blogger can clarify they are posting paid-for content, “How can bloggers make it clear if their blog contains paid for content? Signposting it as “ad” “advertorial” or “sponsored content” is a simple hassle free way to make it immediately clear to readers. We also encourage bloggers or advertisers who want free, expert guidance on the rules in this area and how to stick to them to contact the Copy Advice Team.”
But what does this all mean for performance marketing? Bright Digital Minds spoke to the ASA seeking to clarify whether affiliate links and posts fell under the category of paid content. In no uncertain terms, we were told that any affiliate links do need to be declared as a sponsored post.
And if the rules are found to be breached, who will be held ultimately responsible? It seems like the buck will stop with the merchants and agencies making the arrangements with the bloggers, “Under the Advertising Code, although the blogger would be named as part of any ASA investigation into misleading advertising, ultimately the buck would stop with the advertiser. If a paid for entry on a blog wasn’t disclosed we would investigate the advertiser and hold them accountable.”
Whilst the guidance and clarification from the ASA is welcome, the implications may not be; many bloggers maintain great integrity in their sites and posts, and carefully choose the programmes they are affiliated to – they are not guaranteed to bring in any revenue from their posts, so can they really be classed as paid advertising?