A blog post by The Londoner titled “Our Moroccan Hideaway”, seen on 13 May 2019, described the blogger’s family trip to Morocco and featured a number of photos of the blogger and the location, including a picture of The Londoner wearing a red dress. A caption beneath the picture, which stated “red dress/ yellow dress”, linked to the two products on the Matalan website.
The complainant, who understood that the post contained affiliate links, challenged whether the ad was obviously identifiable as a marketing communication and did not make clear its commercial intent.
Matalan Retail Ltd said that they had previously worked with The Londoner on paid-for content on Instagram via a third-party influencer network. They confirmed that their previous contractual agreement did not require The Londoner to post anything on the blog and the content was not paid for by Matalan. They explained that when the third-party influencer network worked with influencers, they required them to adhere to the ASA’s guidelines. This included highlighting advertising content and affiliate links. They confirmed that the links for their products on the blog were affiliate links. They also stated that The Londoner declared on the blog that they used affiliate links and they provided a link to a FAQ page on the blog. They also said that there was a pop-up on the blog which stated that The Londoner used affiliate links.
TL Blog Ltd t/a The Londoner said that the inclusion of Matalan products in the blog post were not part of any collaboration or agreement with Matalan or the third-party influencer network. The Matalan products included in the post were paid for by The Londoner and they included those items in the post at their own discretion. Neither the third-party influencer network nor Matalan were made aware of the inclusion of the links.
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 understood the links to the products in the blog post were affiliate links, from which The Londoner would receive commission for any sales generated by Matalan through their appearance on their blog. Those links were therefore directly connected with the supply of goods provided by Matalan, and were ads for the purposes of the Code. The affiliate links appeared alongside editorial content on the blog post and we considered it implied that the blog post was entirely editorial. We therefore considered that the commercial nature of the affiliate content should have been made clear prior to consumer engagement.
We understood that during the course of our investigation, The Londoner had included a pop-up on the blog which stated that the blog included affiliate links. However, we noted that the pop-up appeared sporadically and was not clear in distinguishing the affiliate links from editorial content. Additionally, we considered that the FAQ section which stated that The Londoner used affiliate links was not sufficiently prominent to readers. We understood that some but not all links which appeared in The Londoner’s blogs were affiliate links and we therefore considered that neither the pop-up nor the information on the FAQs page was sufficient to ensure that consumers would understand that any particular link that appeared alongside editorial content was an affiliate link, before they engaged with its content. We considered that the text “red dress/ yellow dress” did not indicate to users that the links were for affiliate content. Therefore, we concluded that in the absence of a clear and prominent identifier beside those links, such as “#ad”, the links on the blog post did not make clear their commercial intent and 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 its current form. We told Matalan Ltd and The Londoner to ensure that in future, affiliate links were obviously identifiable as marketing communications, for example, by including a clear identifier such as “#ad” and made clear their commercial intent prior to consumer engagement