#Ad(vice) – Making clear that an ad is an ad

Advertisers should feel free to be creative when devising campaigns. However, it’s important that your audience is always aware that they’re looking at an ad. Ads posted on social media by celebrities or influencers may need to include a label, for example “Ad”, if the intent of the post isn’t otherwise clear.  Here’s some guidance to help you ensure your advertising, whatever form it might take, is obviously identifiable.

“Native” advertising still needs to stand out

Contextually targeted branded content, sometimes referred to as “native” advertising, seeks to serve consumers with brand-generated content that looks at home in the context in which it is being viewed. This can be an effective marketing tactic because it places ads in front of an audience that’s more likely to be interested, but there is a fine line between making an ad less disruptive and disguising what it actually is. The more the content looks like online news editorial, the more likely it is to need some form of prominent labelling to make clear that it’s a marketing communication.

Vlogs and social media

On Twitter and other social networks, the same basic principle applies: any ads must be obviously identifiable as such. Including a clear label, for example “Ad”, is often a safe bet but there are other ways to distinguish an ad from the regular content of a celebrity or influencer’s timeline. Ads that are very similar in terms of tone or voice as an influencer’s usual posts are very likely to need a label to distinguish them.

Ads within vlogs are perhaps less familiar to many consumers than ads in other mediums. With this in mind, advertisers and vloggers should take particular care to ensure that any marketing communications are clearly identifiable as such. The means by which this is achieved needs to be timely, ensuring consumers know they will be viewing an ad before they watch it.

Online marketing to under-12s

When directly targeting under-12s, you’ll need to make it even clearer when something is an ad. While most children will have developed the ability to recognise most forms of marketing by the time they reach 8 years old, those under the age of 12 often still struggle to recognise highly integrated and immersive marketing in online spaces.

For that reason, marketers that are targeting this age group need to bear three main points in mind. Firstly, the disclosure must be prominent, meaning large and colourful enough to stand out. It should also appear as the ad is activated, or before where possible. Thirdly, the identity of the marketer should be clear in the disclosure.

Consider all aspects of the Code

Finally, it is important to always consider the rest of the CAP Code – making clear something’s an ad isn’t the only requirement for ad content. As ever, marketing communications should, among other things, not materially mislead consumers or cause serious or widespread offence.

If you need further advice or guidance on this topic, the CAP Copy Advice team is available to provide free bespoke advice.


More on


  • Keep up to date

    Sign up to our rulings, newsletters and emargoed access for Press. Register now