Yesterday, the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) posted on their blog to clarify some of the queries that they’ve been receiving from bloggers about sponsored content and items provided for review.
We spoke to the ASA to clarify a few things – the main thing to realise is that there is no set wording required for a disclosure, either on your blog or on social media. This means that you can say whatever you want to disclose – “brought to you in partnership with…” “in collaboration with…” “paid for by…” – but it must be clear and obvious to your readers that you have received compensation for that post. This means that you could use whatever symbols you have been to show what items have been provided for review but it must be obvious what they mean. There has been no ruling set for affiliate linking yet as there have not been any complaints, so it would be best to treat them the same as you would the paid links.
There’s been an increase in blogs receiving payment to link to things like gambling websites and while these should be disclosed as any sort of paid for link should, there is no requirement to mention that gambling is addictive. While this is an age restricted area, the judgement would be made on the overall blog – so for example, if a parenting blog was talking about alcohol, then the judgement would be that the audience was people of a parenting age.
With regards to receiving a product to review – a PR person could send you a lipstick (or whatever) with the hope that you will give a good review and this wouldn’t necessarily require a full disclosure (although many readers like to know if you have received something) but if you receive that lipstick, and the PR person says “hey, you need to include a link to boots.com with the wording ‘pretty pink lipstick'”, then that does need disclosing, as it is then an advertorial.
You can make complaints through the ASA website about sites that do not meet the requirements – they will then look at the blog to see if it has broken any rules. If they feel that there is something wrong, then they will speak to the blogger to fix it, or they will pass it on to a higher authority to go further.
tl;dr? If you receive payment (either being sent a product to review or receive a payment) and the people who sent that to you expect a good review or have editorial control (e.g. they want you to include links with specific wording), you must disclose
The ASA are not trying to impede creativity with these guidelines, but want to make it more obvious to the reader if something has been paid for. It’s fantastic to see the ASA starting to provide some guidance on what is and isn’t acceptable – we believe all bloggers should clearly disclose what has been paid for or provided for review, and we’re happy to provide any guidance if you’re not sure what to do!