More brands pinged by Ad Standards for distinguishable advertising breaches

Brands including Adidas Australia, Bondi Boost, ORTC Clothing and Hennes & Mauritz UK Ltd are at the centre of recent breaches of Ad Standards under distinguishable advertising rules.

The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) Code of Ethics’ was updated with new distinguishable advertising rules earlier this year, among multiple changes to the code.

One post by fitness model and influencer Sophie Guidolin (@sophie_guidolin) was found to be in breach of distinguishable advertising rules as it did not have sponsorship transparency regarding her relationship with Adidas, which owns Reebok.

A sample of complaints about the post said it was “misleading” as it did not note that it was an ad or a sponsored post. Mumbrella notes that Guidolin’s relationship with Adidas and Reebok is noted with ‘Paid Partnership’ disclosures and #ad hashtags across a range of other posts on her account.

One of Guidolin’s other sponsored posts

In its response, the advertiser confirmed that Guidolin is a Reebok Ambassador but said the post in question was not one of her contracted posts and that it was in a “different in style” to the contracted posts, and that as a result, it should not constitute a breach of the code.

“Nevertheless, in order to allay any concerns, Ms Guidolin has agreed to removed the Post from her Instagram Feed. In addition, we will continue to work closely with Ms Guidolin on acceptable posting formats and hashtags to be used to ensure that any future posts comply with the Code,” Adidas said. The complaint against the post was upheld by the community panel.

Influencer Lauren Burns (@laurennburns) was found in breach of the distinguishable advertising code over a post with Hennes & Mauritz UK Ltd, which received complaints about not being a clearly marked paid advertisement.

The post, from 5 May, included eight images of Burns holding a grey bag with ‘COS’ written on it, with a caption that advised readers that the bag was limited edition from @cosstores and @blackrainbosaus and that they are available with a donation of $30 or more at COS stores across Australia.

The updated post by Lauren Burns

The advertiser responded that it believed the post is “clearly distinguishable as advertising material to the relevant audience” and “constitutes a clear promotion of COS”. As such, Hennes & Mauritz UK Ltd did not believe the post constituted a breach of the code, but noted that Burns had regardless updated the post to include a #sponsored hashtag.

The panel said that while the precise nature of the arrangement between the advertiser and Burns could not be known, the advertiser had the ability to request that Burns add #sponsored to her post, and that this would constitute relevant control over the advertisement. As a result, the complaint was upheld.

The next case was regarding Carly McDonagh (@carlyamcdonagh) and a post featuring a ‘wave wand’, a hair styling product created by Bondi Boost. The post in question tagged the advertiser and offered a discount on the product with the code ‘CARLY20’.

Ad Standards received a complaint about the post from someone who contacted the account owner to ask if the post was sponsored, only to be blocked on Instagram by McDonagh.

The panel noted that the advertiser did not provide an initial response and ruled that the post was not clearly distinguishable as advertising, and thus breached the code. The post has since been updated with #ad.

Finally, two separate posts by influencer Elias Black (@myfriendelias) were found to be in breach of distinguishable advertising rules. Both posts featured Black wearing clothing made by ORTC Clothing.

One ruling was fairly straightforward, with a post featuring two photos of Black. In one he is wearing an ORTC jumper, and the other an ORTC Hoodie. The caption tagged the brand and said ‘Neutral tones and classic styles AW21 by @ortcclothingco’.

Black’s Updated Post

The advertiser revealed there was a sponsorship arrangement and the complaint was upheld by the panel, with a #ad later added to the post.

The second post did not tag the brand, but featured Black wearing shorts by ORTC. The advertiser suggested that there is no mention of the label and therefore the post should not constitute a breach, but the panel found that Black’s position as an influencer meant that a breach had still occurred.

We Are Social managing director Suzie Shaw, said the code was clear and crucial to ensure strong governance of influencer marketing and that brands and influencers contravening, “what is a pretty straightforward set of guidelines” around disclosure are jeopardising their credibility and the discipline as a whole.

“At this point, consumers are pretty savvy and we see little benefit in trying to deceive them about the nature of the relationship between a brand and an influencer,” she said. “It’s better for everyone to be honest and clear.”

Along with the above breaches, another clothing brand, Yves Saint Laurent, was recently found to have breached Ad Standards under the AANA Health and Safety code for depicting an unhealthy body image.

The post in question was an Instagram advertisement featuring a person on a beach with the text ‘Saint Laurent’ superimposed over the top. The ad was subject to complaints that suggested the model appears to be “extremely thin” and “creates the impression that being underweight is desirable for women”.

The advertiser did not provide an initial response before the Ad Standards Community Panel deliberated over whether the ad breached the AANA Code of Ethics when it comes to Health and Safety.

The panel noted that while the advertising is depicting ‘high-fashion’ where models are typically of a slim body type, that the person depicted looked “emaciated” and considered that “the impression of the advertisement was of a person that looked thin to a degree that would not be attainable by healthy practices”.

The complaint was upheld, with Saint Lauren then responding that it disagreed with the ruling, and noting that the image is no longer being used.


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