More than three quarters of influencer adverts on Instagram have the disclosure hidden somewhere in the post, whether that be in the middle, at the end or in a comment, in breach of Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) guidance. That's the key finding of a stuudy carried out by the affiliate network Awin, as part of a wider look into disclosure in affiliate marketing, ahead of the launch of its adMission tool.
For the study, the top 100 posts for each disclosure hashtag were analysed to see whether the hashtag was visible in the original post, or needed expanding to be seen.
The hashtags used for analysis were #ad, which had the highest number of posts at 12.8m; #advertisement (1.8m); #sponsored (3.3m); #gifted (1.8m); and #affiliate (744,000).
According to the ASA, influencer marketing labels “must be prominent enough that consumers will easily notice it”, and that “burying a label in list of hashtags … or placing it ‘under the fold’ where consumers would need to click ‘see more’ … won’t be sufficient.”
Taking all hashtags into account, it was found that 76 per cent of the analysed posts hid the disclosure from view; i.e. their post was not in line with the ASA guidance noted above.
Influencers were most likely to place the disclosure in the middle of the post, with 59 per cent of posts reflecting this pattern, while 24 per cent were found at the end. A further 5 per cent were located at the beginning of the post, and as many as 12 per cent were hidden in the comments section.
The term that was most likely to be hidden in the post was #affiliate, with 93 per cent of uploads having it out of sight. In comparison, influencers were the most open about #gifted posts, with just 60 per cent of posts hiding the phrase.
‘Advertisement’ was the most likely hashtag to be hidden in the comments section of the post, with 20 per cent of relevant posts doing so. Comparatively, #ad was most likely to be found at the beginning of the post, with 15 per cent found here.
The team also looked at how many of the Instagram influencer adverts stated a paid collaboration or partnership with a brand above the uploaded picture. Just 13 per cent of the analysed posts included this feature, with those including #ad (24 per cent) and #sponsored (23 per cent) the most likely to do so.
“Disclosure is a really important part of being an influencer, not just because of the legal ramifications but also to have complete transparency with your followers,” said Kevin Edwards, Global Strategy Director at Awin. “It was surprising to find that so many influencers were ‘hiding’ the disclosure of their advertisements from followers, and something we hope to combat this year.”