When calling out influencers for failing to disclose promotion of their own brands I’d have thought Alice Bull should also be declaring her content as a promotion of her own services, too.

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The Alice Bull saga breathlessly pants on. What saga? See Creator Briefing #125 for background on Bull’s beef with Grace Beverley. Late Sunday evening The Times published a story: Meet the TikTok vigilante trying to enforce advertising rules.

The piece is upbeat about Bull’s “naming and shaming” influencers and explains how the compliance crusader is “determined to shine a light on practices in an industry that she still considers a ‘Wild West.’”

A recent interview with Corq notes that "since the controversy, Bull has been deluged with messages and comments from marketeers and business owners asking questions and seeking clarification".

But, do Bull’s own TikToks fall on the right side of the CAP code? Do they even need to fall within the code? 

According to her website Bull offers brands and agencies legal and compliance advice. So, when calling out influencers for failing to disclose promotion of their own brands I’d have thought that Bull should also be declaring her content as a promotion of her own services, too.

The ASA website explains “marketers should be aware that any content that bears a relationship to the products or services they offer has the potential to be considered directly connected and therefore within the ASA’s remit.”

For sure, talking about related topics doesn’t automatically turn all of her content into ads for her services but individual posts could be said to be marketing communications if they are ‘directly connected’ with the supply of her services.

Anyhoo, I don’t profess to be an expert in this field. This is only my interpretation of guidelines. I have no specialised training in this area. And this raises another issue around positioning and provision of services. 

I asked Rupa Shah, Director at Hashtag Ad Consulting, a firm that provides advertising regulation guidance, for her view on Bull’s posts. Shah says that “it’s fine to call out influencers in editorial content – to highlight errors and to help others learn”. 

However, Shah warned that Bull’s posts may not always be considered editorial, “because if the ASA considered her intention was to promote her business (which she links to in her TikTok profile) then her posts about influencer compliance are unlikely to satisfy the test for clear disclosure of commercial intent.”

 In short, says Shah, “my advice to any creator that posts content relating to their own products or services, is to avoid implying that they are just another consumer and to make absolutely clear any commercial intent. I would recommend a clear and upfront disclosure label such as #AD, in accordance with CAP Code rules 2.1 and 2.3 (recognition of marketing communications)”.

DECLARATION: I am the director general of the Influencer Marketing Trade Body which is a member of the Committee of Advertising Practices (“CAP”). CAP is responsible for writing and updating the rules on advertising in the UK via the CAP (Non-broadcast Advertising) Code. 

CAP is the sister organisation of the Advertising Standards Authority ("ASA") - the UK’s independent advertising regulator that administers the CAP Code to keep ads legal, decent, honest and truthful. 

Rupa Shah provides IMTB members with influencer marketing compliance advice under our REASSURE programme. 

Scott Guthrie is a professional adviser within the influencer marketing industry. He is an event speaker, university guest lecturer, media commentator on influencer marketing and active blogger. He works with brands, agencies and platforms to achieve meaningful results from influencer marketing. That tells you something about him but it's not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So, read more here.

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