Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.

Using celebrity endorsements in an ad can increase awareness of the brand. The downside is that ASA rulings against ads which feature celebrities tend to get significant media attention so it’s worth ensuring the ad complies with the Code. The key things to remember when featuring celebrities are:

Endorsements must be genuine

Advertisers should not make claims like "Treatment already a favourite with celebrities such as Helen Mirren and Jennifer Lopez", unless they hold evidence that this is true (Go Groopie Ltd, 21 August 2013). See 'Testimonials and endorsements'.

Claims must be accurate

Marketers must hold evidence to support claims made in ads, including in testimonials (see 'Claims in testimonials and endorsements'). Claims can be made visually as well, so photos should not exaggerate the efficacy of a product.

There have been a number of ASA rulings against cosmetics ads where the use of production techniques exaggerated the efficacy of the product. Advertisers should remember when using people in the public eye, consumers are likely to be able to spot where there has been an over liberal use of such techniques. For specific examples please see 'Cosmetics: The use of production techniques'.

Avoid the Social media pitfalls

Genuine user generated content on websites does not fall within the Code’s remit. This includes content spontaneously created by celebrities on social media channels. This means if a celebrity spontaneously tweets about a brand and consumer complained, it would not be investigated by the ASA.

However, if a celebrity is being paid to endorse a product on social media, it needs to be clear that the communication is an ad. Essentially, that means making it easy for the average consumer to be able to judge whether or not they are looking at an ad. If you’re getting a celebrity to endorse your brand, then they too have to adhere to this rule.

Using a marketing campaign hashtag or slogan may be insufficient to indicate a tweet is an ad, as is shown by the ASA’s ruling against tweets from Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshere (Nike UK Ltd, 20 June 2012). However, when Wayne Rooney included the advertiser’s Twitter handle as well the ASA did not uphold complaints (Nike (UK) Ltd, 4 September 2013). If in doubt, consider including “#ad”.

See 'Remit: Social Media'.

Remember age matters (in alcohol and gambling ads)

Celebrities who are, or look, under 25 cannot play a significant role in alcohol ads. This means marketers should not use celebrities to promote their product if they are under the age of 25.

Alcohol may not be associated with people under 18 or reflect their culture. Featuring or referring to celebrities who are over 25 but associated with youth culture can still fall foul of the Code. An ad for Sourz was found to breach the Code for having particular appeal to young people, based in part, on the references to Nicole Scherzinger and Leona Lewis. An ad for Smirnoff, which featured Madonna, was not considered to have particular resonance with younger audiences. See 'Alcohol: Use of celebrities'.

Celebrities who are, or look, under 25 cannot be featured in gambling ads unless they are the subject of the bet being offered and the bet can be placed directly. See 'Betting and gaming: Featuring under 25s'.

Be aware of sector restrictions

Marketers must not use celebrities to endorse medicines. Celebrities may endorse cosmetic interventions but the endorsement should not detract from the seriousness of the intervention offered.

In ads for foods and food supplements, health claims that refer to the recommendation of an individual health professional may not be made. This includes celebrity health professionals.

Ads for food/soft drink products that are high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) which directly target pre-school or primary school children (under-12s) through the content must not include celebrities that are popular with children (see Children: Food).

Be responsible

Advertisers should consider their choice of celebrity carefully as there may be an aspect of their fame which might render them inappropriate to be featured in ads for some products. For example, the ASA ruled that choosing Kerry Katona, whose financial problems and bankruptcy had been widely publicised, to advertise a pay day loan company was irresponsible (PDB UK Ltd t/a CashLady, 31 July 2013).

Seek permission

Marketers must not unfairly portray or refer to anyone in an adverse or offensive way unless that person has given the marketer written permission to allow it. See 'Privacy: Offence and adverse portrayal' and 'Privacy: Use of impersonators and caricatures'.

See 'Royal Family'

Updated 29 June 2017

More on