CAP has published new guidance on affiliate marketing for “social influencers” and brands. The new guidance is largely in response to the bloggers, vloggers, instagrammers and other so-called “social influencers” who use social media, Youtube and blogs to generate income through affiliate links. CAP is clear that this is advertising and so must subscribe to its rules.
Affiliate marketing is where an affiliate – such as a blogger – is rewarded by a business for each new customer they attract. This reward is usually a pre-agreed percentage of each sale received as a result of the affiliate or “social influencer” placing links to relevant products online. The aim of the guidance is to help such influencers and brands comply with CAP’s rules on affiliate marketing when used in more integrated social media formats. It notes how they can make it clear to consumers whether the content that they are viewing is an ad.
CAP emphasises that brands as well as influencers are responsible for ensuring that these rules are met, despite not always having the editorial control of more traditional advertising formats. ASA’s rulings against brands as well as affiliate marketers supports this.
The guidance considers blogs, vlogs, social media posts and voucher sites in turn. It describes what “clearly identified” can practically look like for each of these formats. For example at the beginning of a Facebook post or the free text description on Pinterest, ‘ad’ should be included. If the page, article, blog, vlog, tweet or post contains only affiliate links, then it must be clearly marked as an ‘ad’. Where only part of the content is an affiliate link, then those specific links must be clearly identified as such.
With more innovative and integrated formats increasingly available to influencers and advertisers, this new guidance demonstrates that such developments have not gone unnoticed by CAP and ASA. With some influencers notoriously unclear as to how and where they are generating their income, it may become increasingly difficult for them to ignore the need for transparency with their affiliate content.