The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) updated its UK advice around the difficult topic of “Hidden Advertising”.
On the whole, RippleXn and organisations such as the Influencer Marketing Trade Body (IMTB) welcome the CMA’s update. (Check out the IMTB’s invaluable work and advice).
In particular, we applaud the clearest definitions yet of what is considered an incentivised endorsement, a commercial relationship, and what constitutes payment.
However, in our view the updated guidance article “Being clear with your audience” could provide more clarity by giving explicit advice by content or platform type. For example, audience interaction with a text post is completely different from a video post, a short-form VOD is different from a long-form VOD, and a live stream by its very nature presents a completely different engagement mechanic.
This generalised approach to platforms and content labelling presents jurisdictional inconsistencies that we will unpick in an upcoming blog post.
We are routinely asked by clients what regulators define as the period of time for which they regard a paid relationship to be in effect and require disclosure.
The CMA says this; “an arrangement entered into by a content creator in respect of any brand or its products, where there is payment (as defined below) made or offered in the year prior to the content being posted, or where there is a long-term relationship (such as where a content creator acts as an ambassador for the brand.”
And the CMA’s definition of payment follows as; “Payment includes any form of monetary payment; commission; a loan of a product/ service; a free product/service (whether requested or unsolicited); or any other incentive such as discounts, shares or equity, leases or rentals free of charge or on more favourable terms than those offered to the general public, ‘freebies’, free stays, invitations to events etc.”
This is incredibly difficult to apply in many everyday scenarios. Take a video game influencer with an average-sized channel receiving on average 50-100 games per month, streaming equipment for review, in-game currency or content upgrades, giveaways, etc. It’s conceivable that in a single video, 10-or-so 1-year legacy partnerships would need to be declared before getting to the day’s sponsor of that particular video.
This in itself further relegates the use of #Ad and platform tools depicting paid partnerships. If there's more than one relationship in play, per the CMA guidance, the channel owner needs to be able to make it clear to their audience which paid relationship relates to what. A blanket "stuff could be an #ad” doesn’t inform anyone. Quite the opposite, in fact.