An Instagram reel from influencer Charlotte Dawson’s account @charlottedawsy, seen on 13 September 2021, featured a video of Charlotte Dawson in her underwear. Text below stated “The glow up is chuffin real all thanks to @dawsylicioustanning … too tanned to give a damn in ultra dark & shimmering in my sparkly moisturiser & smell fabulous with my hydration mist [star emoji] kweeen Chazza is ere!! & I’ve got 30% off everything yaaay use code CHAZZA30 [party face emoji].
IssueThe complainant, who believed the post was promoting Charlotte Dawson’s own products, challenged whether the post was obviously identifiable as a marketing communication.
ResponseCharlotte Dawson’s representatives said the post was promoting Charlotte Dawson’s own product and it was not a paid partnership, but they would archive the post as the caption could not be edited on reels. They said Ms Dawson had not realised that the post needed to be labelled as an ad because it was a product from her own brand, but she would include the label “ad” on all her own posts going forward.
The CAP Code stated that marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such, and that they must make clear their commercial intent if that was not obvious from the context. The ASA first assessed whether the post was a marketing communication within the remit of the CAP Code. We understood that Ms Dawson was promoting a product from her own brand Dawsylicious Tanning which would be available for consumers to purchase. The post included a 30% off promotional discount code which consumers could use when obtaining the product. We therefore considered that the post was in non-paid-for space under Ms Dawson’s control, directly connected to the supply of goods, and that it was therefore a marketing communication for the purposes of the Code.
We assessed the ad as it would have appeared in-feed on the Instagram app and considered that there was nothing in its content, such as “#ad” placed upfront to indicate to users that the post was a marketing communication. We considered that the video featured in the post focused on Ms Dawson and her change of clothing, rather than the product itself. The post also included the handle “@dawsylicioustanning”, her Instagram username “charlottedawsy”, and the product was called Dawsylicious, in reference to her surname. We considered that although some of Ms Dawson’s followers might be aware of her commercial relationship with Dawsylicious, it was not immediately clear to all Instagram users from the post itself that she was promoting her own commercial venture.
The caption which accompanied the mobile app version of the post was shortened and only stated “The glow up is chuffin real all thanks to @dawsylicioustanning … too tanned”, which we considered did not indicate to users that the post was a marketing communication. We acknowledged that by clicking on the caption, further text was revealed which stated, “my sparkly moisturiser”, “my hydration mist” and “I’ve got 30% off everything yaaay use code CHAZZA30”. However, notwithstanding that the caption in full would not have been immediately visible to consumers who viewed the post on a mobile device, we considered that those phrases were insufficient to ensure that the post was obviously identifiable as an ad. Although the caption was immediately visible to those viewing the post on a desktop, for those reasons we did not consider it was obviously identifiable as an ad when viewed on that version.
We welcomed Ms Dawson’s assurance that she would ensure future marketing communications were appropriately labelled. However, because at the time the post was seen, it did not make clear its commercial intent upfront that it was an ad for Ms Dawson’s own brand. Because th post was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication, we concluded that it had therefore breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 2.1 and 2.3 (Recognition of marketing communications).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Charlotte Dawson to ensure that she made clear the commercial intent of her posts in future, and that her ads were obviously identifiable as marketing communications, for example, by including a clear and prominent identifier such as “#ad” at the start of the post.