A total of 4,401 reports about 3,670 influencer ads were filed with the Advertising Standards Authority in 2019, making up more than a quarter of all online complaints.
The data forms part of the 2019 Annual Report from the ASA and the Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP), the body responsible for drawing up UK advertising codes.
In the report, Emma Smith, Operations Manager for the CAP Copy Advice service, says: “Recognising that the focus of our current strategy is to have more impact online, we continued our work in relation to influencer marketing.
“From creating a ‘cheat sheet’ for Love Island contestants in partnership with ITV to hosting a training event that included the CMA as a co-presenter, [we gave] the industry clear and comprehensive guidance on the regulatory framework in which it operates.”
Ms Smith goes on to mention the relaunch of updated resources relating to influencer marketing earlier this year, following research carried out by the ASA in September.
Amongst the revised publications was the online guide for influencers on ‘making clear that ads are ads’, which was downloaded over 15,000 times in 2019.
The document also includes data on the ASA’s avatar technology, used to monitor age-restricted adverts relating to food and drinks with high fat, salt or sugar (HFSS).
The avatars, which mimic ‘the online profiles of internet users of different ages’, made 196,000 visits to over 250 websites last year, leading to 95,000 ads being captured and reviewed.
Conor Gibson, Compliance Executive at CAP, writes: “Although we did not find any ads with content specifically aimed at children, we did identify a number of incidents where ads for HFSS products were served in children’s online media, in particular YouTube videos aimed at children.”
“We followed up our findings by engaging with advertisers and YouTube to ensure rigorous measures were in place to limit children’s exposure to age-restricted ads.”
Alongside new statistics on ad monitoring, the document also sees the ASA state that claims made in political advertising should be regulated.
Guy Parker, Chief Executive, says in a report: “Before addressing the difficult question of ‘how’, an essential first step must be that the new political parties in the nations (and campaign groups, in the case of referendums) agree to be regulated.
“Assuming that buy-in from the parties can be secured, it leaves the small matter of ensuring that any new regulator is properly funded, the scope of its remit is clearly defined, and its independence is protected.”
The comments come after the ASA’s chair, Lord Currie, told a House of Lords committee in November that it is not for the body to “advocate for the regulation of political advertising”.
He said: “We do not have a position on that. It is for politicians, Parliament and so on to make that decision. We are saying there are reasons why the ASA may not be the best vehicle for doing the regulation of political advertising.”
In his statement, Mr Parker goes on to repeat that the ASA is ‘not the right body’ to lead the regulation of political advertising, but ‘stand ready’ to share their experiences and expertise with a ‘more collaborative regulatory arrangement’.
The full annual report can be found on the ASA’s official website.
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