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#NonSpon? Ad Standards pings Cygnett and Thermomix for ambiguous influencer ads

The ambiguity of brand and influencer deals has again been called into question, as a further two brands have been found in breach of the AANA Code of Ethics for influencer content that was not clearly labelled as advertising.

Separate complaints made against tech accessory brand Cygnett, as well as kitchen appliance brand Thermomix – regarding Section 2.7 Distinguishable advertising – were in both cases upheld by the Ad Standards Community Panel for failing to adhere to the labelling requirements outlined in the Code.

Sophie Cachia

The Cygnett case dealt with an Instagram story posted by influencer Sophie Cachia, featuring an image of Cachia holding a charging cord, accompanied by a link to Cygnett.com and the following text: “Found my baby!!!! @cygnett Nobody charges my phone like this cord here. Whenever I lose it, it’s devastating (aka Bobby steals it for his iPad) I will neverrrrrrr go back to any other cord. Not spon, just simply life changing when you need your phone constantly & charged SO fast.”

The complaint made against the content stated: “Sophie is obviously getting paid to be an ongoing ambassador for this product/brand (Cygnett) and should clearly display that it is a paid post.”

In responding to the complaint, Cygnett took the position that it should not be responsible for the post, given that it was made by Cachia independently, and was included in the scope of the endorsement agreement – i.e. it was not technically a paid post.

“The post highlighted in your Ad Complaint is not included in the content calendar and was not requested or supported in anyway by Cygnett. As per above, Cygnett has zero knowledge of this post and it was completed by Sophie Cachia without any financial support from Cygnett,” said a Cygnett spokesperson.

The situation in the case of Thermomix was near identical, with a complaint calling out influencer Sarah Kearns for failing to properly indicate the nature of her relationship with the brand on an Instagram story image of the product with the text:

“This Instagram story was posted to the @sarahkearnsofficial account and features the inside of a mixer with the text, “Ok Tuesday is normally quick dinner/takeaway as knox has art until 5:30 and we aren’t home till 6. Tonight I made a butter chicken in less time than it would have taken to grab takeout! Will keep the thermomix updates coming for those interested”.

The complaint read: “The Thermomix was gifted to Sarah Kearns, ostensibly for promotional reasons. It has not been declared as a paid advertisement or listed as gifted, or anything to indicate a relationship between Thermomix and Ms Kearns. Thermomix is tagged, in very small white writing hidden against a white bench top.”

Like Cygnett, Thermomix also stood by the fact that Kearns’ post was not relevant to her sponsorship with the company, which had involved a paid promotion of a Kobold cordless vacuum, for which the Thermomix appliance had formed part of her reimbursement.

“Mr Kearns was engaged to promote only the Kobold. She had no authority, direction or retainer to promote the TM6 appliance. Any promotion of that appliance, if it has occurred, was without this company’s knowledge or approval, nor as a paid sponsorship,” said a company spokesperson.

In both cases, the Panel saw that while the posts were made at the digression of the influencer, they did still fall reasonably within the control of the advertiser, as the products had been provided as part of a broader sponsorship and ambassadorship deals.

“The Panel considered that noting the context of Ms Cachia’s existing relationship with the brand, the product specific post with the image being solely of the product held by the influencer’s hand, the tagging of the brand, the strong endorsement in the text along with the product’s website placed on the right side of post, were all indicators that the post is an advertisement.”

The Panel also found that Cachia’s explicit inclusion of the words ‘not spon’ further obscured the post’s distinguishability as advertising.

In concluding its decision to uphold the complaint against Thermomix, the Panel said: “The Panel considered that the advertiser had provided the product to Ms Kearns as part payment for her previous work, and that in agreeing to provide the product to the influencer in the context of an ongoing commercial arrangement the advertiser was exercising a degree of control and that the story did draw attention to the product.

Due to the temporary nature of Instagram stories, both advertisements are no longer available. Cygnett did not respond to the Ad Standards determination, while Thermomix intends to appeal against the determination.

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