Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing where an affiliate is rewarded , by a business for each new customer attracted by their marketing efforts (usually with a pre-agreed percentage of each sale). The ASA and CAP often see the same issues cropping up with marketing in this medium, so we’ve put together a list of the top 3 things that marketers should do to avoid breaching the Advertising Codes.

1) Make clear that your content is an ad.

This may sound obvious but numerous marketers have fallen foul of the ASA by blurring the line, intentionally or not, between independent editorial content written about a product and advertising copy making efficacy claims. The CAP Code requires that “Marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such” so, if you’re in any doubt as to whether people will consider your affiliate piece to be editorial or marketing, it would be advisable to head it with “Advertisement feature” or similar to make the commercial intent of the piece clear.

2) Ensure editorial control over your affiliates’ content.

Many brands make the mistake of believing that because their affiliate has written the advertising content relating to their product, and are promoting it themselves, the brand is not responsible for that content or promotion. The ASA take a different view: given the brand is actively inciting the affiliate marketer to promote their products or services, benefit from each sale made by the affiliate, and are paying the marketer on the basis of sales, both the brand and the marketer are held responsible for the advertising. In light of this it is wise for brands to set certain rules with regards content generated for their products. For example, making unsubstantiated efficacy claims for a product is as problematic when done by an affiliate as it is when done by the brand itself, and as such the brand should take steps to curtail such problematic advertising being created by affiliate marketers – potentially by directing affiliates as to what they can say regarding the brand’s product.

3) Ensure the significant conditions of promotions are communicated.

As in all mediums all significant terms and conditions likely to affect a consumers’ understanding of a promotion must be communicated to them clearly and in good time. In traditional paid for advertising an exclusion exists for ads, such as banners, that are particularly limited by space or time. In these instances the significant terms and conditions for a promotion can be communicated on a landing page a maximum of one click away from the initial promotional copy. The ASA would likely apply the same rule to affiliate ads that were significantly limited by space; but the brand should ensure that the link to the product or service that the affiliate is providing links directly to the terms and conditions of the promotion in order to avoid the promotion being problematic. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the one click rule applies only to mediums extremely limited by space or time. If an affiliate marketer is using content in a medium where space is not at a premium to promote a sales promotion significant terms and conditions will need to be included on the same page as the promotional content.

Further information on affiliate marketing, including examples of cases that the ASA has investigated, can be found in our Remit: Affiliate marketing Advice Online article.

Advice on specific ads will be given by the Committee of Advertising Practice’s Copy Advice team who can be contacted here.

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