UK watchdog ruling on TikTok advertisement highlights potential pitfalls of influencers overdelivering against their campaign brief.


A hairdryer advertisement fronted by Emily Canham has become the first TikTok post to be ruled against by the UK’s advertising watchdog.

The advertisement for GHD included a caption saying users could benefit from a discount if they entered Ms Cahham’s first name as a promo code on its website.

The Advertising Standards Authority ruled that Ms Canham’s TikTok post should have placed a marker such as “#ad” upfront to make clear to those viewing it that the post was an ad. 

The ad self-regulator said the post was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication and as such breached its CAP Code.

This is is first TikTok post that the ASA has ruled against. The ruling is perhaps more pertinent in reminding brands of the potential perils existing when influencers over-deliver against their campaign brief.

Potential perils in over-delivering content

L’Oreal makeup ambassador Ms Canham’s was contracted by GHD to provide a TikTok video on 26 May, a YouTube video with the accompanying promotional discount code “EMILY” across 13 to 14 June, and two Instagram posts across 13 to 14 June.

The sponsoring company said in the ASA ruling that the TikTok post dated 14 June was created without their oversight and approval and did not form part of Ms Canham’s contractual obligations to them. The company added that she had not been compensated for the promotional code featured in the post.

The ASA acknowledged that Ms Canham’s agent and GHD stated that the TikTok post was not paid for. However, it noted that the post featured the same promotional code stipulated in the agreement to promote GHD.

Brands often spend a lot of time, effort and money identifying, then selecting, the most appropriate influencers to collaborate with. Based beyond reach the collaboration should be founded on relevance of product and values. When the right partnership is struck influencers often wish to create more content for the brand beyond that which is contracted. They do this either because they are fans of the brand or in the hope of repeat work.

This GHD/Emily Canham case is a reminder that organic, additional ‘free’ posts created and published by influencers may well be considered to be linked to sponsorship agreements - at least in the eyes of the regulators.  

The ASA is not alone here. In January 2019 the Competition and Markets Authority issued guidance to influencers stating that past relationships with brands matter too. Even if an influencer no longer has a relationship with a brand, if there was a past relationship (or if he/she received product loans, gifts and/or other incentives) people need to know about this.

The CMA said consumers need to be aware of any former relationship over a reasonable period of time. How long is reasonable? “anything within the last year is likely to be relevant to followers” according to the watchdog.

Rupa Shah of Hashtag Ad Consulting explains more about the different approaches taken by the ASA and CMA as well as the sanctions at their disposal in a recent episode of the Influencer Marketing Lab podcast.

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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  1. Great article Scott!
    It seems that this may need to be reflected in the partnerships brands build with creators – either stricter (which may be a bad thing?!) or more long-term?

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on the article Kate. Yes, both brand and influencer (plus intermediary agencies) need to be fully up-to-speed with disclosure regulations. Guidelines and interpretations are fluid so the process can’t be one of ‘set and forget’.

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