The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has issued updated advice explaining how publishers and the advertisers they work with, can ensure that advertorials or similar content are obviously identifiable to consumers.
When a publisher is paid by a brand, subsequent posts should make this clear by displaying a prominent label. If there is payment but no editorial control by the brand, the content is subject to consumer protection law under the Competition and Markets Authority. But when a brand has paid a publisher, and also has editorial control, the content is classed as an advertorial or advertisement feature and is regulated by the ASA.
Recently revised advice comes from the Committee on Advertising (CAP), the sister organisation of the ASA, which states that marketing communications must be obviously identifiable. For advertisement features particularly, even if they are designed to resemble the editorial style of the title they appear in, they should be differentiated from strictly editorial content.
The CAP Code specifically suggests the label “Advertisement Feature” – but it is also likely “Ad”, “Advert”, “Advertising”, “Advertisement”, and “Ad Feature” are considered acceptable. The ASA advice states that the term “sponsored” is open interpretation and as such, they generally advise against using the term in this context.
In relation to magazines and newspapers specifically, recent ASA advice noted that previous examples – not an exhaustive list – of the following labels were not clear enough for users:
- “Sponsored section”
- “In association with”
- “Brand Publisher”
The prominence of the label is crucial, but also visual and contextual signposts are important.
Advertisers and publishers for which this is relevant should read the updated advice in full. Please note, neither this article nor the ASA advice page constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the ASA.