A sponsored post by model and influencer Nikki Phillips for Unilever’s Magnum ice cream has become the third instance of a breach of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) Code of Ethics’ updated distinguishable advertising rule.
Complaints were lodged with Ad Standards for the post, dated 7 May, in which Phillips tagged #MAGNUMluxegOLD but failed to disclose her relationship with Unilever.
The Ad Standard Community Panel noted that “influencer and affiliate marketing often appears alongside organic/genuine user-generated content and is often less obvious to the audience” and upheld the complaint.
The post has since been updated with the #ad hashtag, after Unilever admitted in its response that the sponsored post was not compliant.
“We acknowledge that the original sponsored Instagram post by our paid Magnum influencer Nikki Phillips on 7 May 2021 was not compliant to the AANA Code of Ethics as the relationship between Unilever and the influencer was not clear,” Unilever said in its response.
“We apologise for this non-compliance and have advised Nikki Phillips to edit the post clearly to highlight that it is a sponsored post. The word #ad now appears in the post.”
Unilever also said it will work with its marketing team and influencer to ensure they understand their obligations under the code.
In its response, the panel said: “Where an influencer or affiliate accepts payment of money or free products or services from a brand in exchange for them to promote that brand’s products or services, the relationship must be clear, obvious and upfront to the audience and expressed in a way that is easily understood (e.g. #ad, Advert, Advertising, Branded Content, Paid Partnership, Paid Promotion).
“Less clear labels such as #sp, Spon, gifted, Affiliate, Collab, thanks to… or merely mentioning the brand name may not be sufficient to clearly distinguish the post as advertising.”
Mumbrella notes that other posts currently on Phillips’ Instagram page, including the below post for Temple Luxe By Berlie, use the #sp tag but nothing further to indicate that it is a paid post or sponsored content.
The latest post follows recent breaches by Anna Heinrich, in her post for Runway The Label, and by Rozalia Russian, in a post for Tom Ford.
The AANA updated its code of ethics in February, and now requires influencers to clearly disclose partnerships with #ad or #sponsored, or other clear markers.
But despite that update, a recent HypeAuditor analysis of posts by Australian Instagram influencers that had brand mentions between March and April found a significant portion of Instagram influencers are still failing to disclose sponsored and partnership posts.
It found that from 2,548 posts with brand mentions, only 1,366 used #ad or #sponsored hashtags.
Speaking with Mumbrella earlier this year, Ad Standards’ executive director Richard Bean said that concern about distinguishable advertising was on the rise despite the regulator’s 2018 community perceptions research found that there was generally a low level of concern across the community about whether an ad was clearly distinguishable or not.