Last week Instagram began testing a new tagging system that clearly labelled posts where paid content is present. This comes as part of Instagram’s attempt to introduce transparent marketing on the platform, as growing frustration over undisclosed and unclear sponsored posts mounts. Similarly, YouTube implemented a similar rule whereby ‘creators’ must declare that they have received payment to promote a product in that video.

The repercussions for breaching these rules are now viewed as breaking the law, according to landmark legislation from the UK advertising watchdog. In addition to legal implications, the social effects of falsely promoting products to wary fans and followers could cause further damage to online reputations and affiliated brands.

With many social platforms now tightening the reins on what influencers can and can’t do when it comes to advertising, it is crucial to understand in what ways affiliate marketing is affected by this, be it via social media, blogging or otherwise.

Affiliate Marketing in the UK is regulated by ASA and is subject to the CAP Code as covered in the scope of the code remit, despite not being formally recognised in the full published code. Here are the rules that must be abided:

1. Make sure affiliate marketing is obviously identifiable

As part of rule 2.1 in the cap code, ‘marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such’. This means that if an affiliate is promoting a product that has an affiliate link associated, then they must clearly state this. In circumstances where an affiliation is not immediately clear, which often include blogs, social media and voucher sites, a formal disclosure will be legally required. The ASA suggests that for cases like this that the word Ad is added to the title or caption. Although not legally required, it is also suggested that where possible affiliates explain the nature of the relationship to further avoid misleading advertising.

2. Marketing communications must not falsely imply or claim that the marketer is acting as a consumer
Continuing from making sure commercial intent is obvious, it is also against the code for affiliates to act as mere consumers as a way to promote affiliated products or brands. This means a blogger or influencer can’t infer a post that encourages users to go and buy a specific brand, product or service is void of affiliation influence and thus an ad. Content that portrays the affiliate as a consumer of the  product is allowed but only when it is very clearly marked as an ‘Ad’

3. Take care with the content
As a form of marketing, affiliate marketing, regardless of anything else, should always adhere to the scope of the code rules when it comes to promotional content. This means that there is a responsibility that content “should not, amongst other things, mislead materially or cause serious or widespread offence”. Therefore, affiliates with free rein over their promotions should read up on ad copy guidelines and get to grips with the do’s and don’t’s. Similarly, any brands that allow their affiliates freedom to promote products as they wish should also be mindful of how affiliates choose to use links, as they will still be responsible for any advertising misconduct that takes place.

If you’re looking for any more advice regarding affiliate marketing and your brand or blog, then get in touch today.