Under the Influence?: The AANA Sets Its Sights on Social Media Influencers
By Emma Tiberi, Promotions Lawyer
05 May 2021
Brands are increasingly borrowing reach from celebrities and social media influencers to promote and sell their products. While it may be more transparent to tell when a celebrity is trying to sell you something, the truth isn’t always black and white.
AANA Code of Ethics Updates
After an extensive review of its Code of Ethics, the Australian Association of National Advertisers (the AANA) has taken steps to combat undisclosed brand partnerships. Amongst several other changes to the Code of Ethics, influencers are now required to clearly disclose any commercial relationship when they are endorsing or mentioning a brand or product via their social media platforms. This comes under Section 2.7 of the AANA Code of Ethics, which requires that “advertising material must clearly be distinguishable as such”.
This means, brands and influencers are now legally required to explicitly disclose their partnership in a way that is easily understood, e.g. #ad, Advert, Advertising, Branded Content, Paid Partnership or Paid Promotion.
The Practice Notes on this Section of the Code of Ethics go on to state that advertisers must not ‘camouflage’ advertising content, indicating that “influencer and affiliate marketing often appears alongside organic/genuine user generated content and is often less obvious to the audience” (making it more difficult for consumers to identify the material as advertising).
The Practice Notes apply to any commercial arrangement and each must have these disclosures, including but not limited to the influencer being paid for their comments OR receiving free products or services.
Ultimately, the commercial relationship must be identified in a manner which is clear, obvious and upfront to the audience.
The Practice Notes go on to explain that more obscure hashtags or accompanying wording (such as #sp, ‘gifted’, or a mere mention of the brand itself) are not sufficiently clear to disclose the commercial relationship between the company and the influencer.
Interestingly, the AANA has stipulated that product placement as a result of a commercial relationship may not come under the Section 2.7 requirements. The AANA has taken the view that audiences do not need to be made aware of such commercial arrangements when it comes to product placement.
Influencers and Brands Beware
The tighter rules around influencers came into effect in February this year and already the AANA has had several influencer posts in its sights.
On February 11th this year, Anna Heinrich, 2013 winner of The Bachelor, released a photograph of herself wearing an ‘@atrunawaythelabel’ dress with the words “Turning my apartment into a Runway 💚 Then back to my PJs I go!”. The AANA identified this as a clear breach of Section 2.7 of the code and required Heinrich to include a hashtag to indicate that the post was made as a result of a commercial arrangement.
High profile Instagram influencer Rozalia Russian also came under fire for a post promoting a Tom Ford perfume with the caption 'summer in a bottle @tomfordbeauty'.
While the brand has since denied that this was a paid post, it is a clear indication of the types of posts expected to come under the ire of the advertising watchdog.
With the popularity and persuasion of social media influencers still on the rise, we look on to see how influencers and brands manoeuvre their way around the revised AANA Code of Ethics and take up the challenge of making #BrandedContent, #PaidPromotion and #PaidPartnership just as sexy as the influencer themselves.
Don’t want to run the risk of breaching AANA Code of Ethics? Get a Plexus Promotion and Advertising Wizard demo or speak to our marketing compliance team today to ensure all your advertising collateral passes the test.