An Instagram post by Rio Ferdinand, seen on 21 December 2022, featured a video which promoted the Visit Qatar website. A caption alongside the video stated, “Time spent eating my bodyweight in the kitchen! That’s a wrap for Qatar, been great filming behind the scenes and meeting so many locals!” Text underneath stated “#VisitQatar” and below that “#ad”.
When viewing the post on a mobile device the hashtags were not visible and a user would have had to click on a “more” button to view them.
IssueThe complainant challenged whether the post was obviously identifiable as a marketing communication.
Qatar Tourism t/a Visit Qatar acknowledged that the presentation of the label was not prominent enough. They informed us that they had liaised with Rio Ferdinand’s representatives and that the post had been amended to make the label clearer. They also informed us that they would ensure that all future marketing communication posts would be more prominently labelled.
Rio Ferdinand’s representative said they believed that all guidelines had been followed as the post included a #ad label. They said they used the #ad label because Instagram had previously advised them to do so.
The CAP Code stated that marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such, and 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 that fell within the remit of the CAP Code. We understood that Rio Ferdinand had a commercial relationship with Visit Qatar in which he had been paid to promote the tourism industry of the country using his Instagram account. We therefore considered that posts made under that relationship fell within the remit of the CAP Code. We considered that Visit Qatar and Rio Ferdinand were therefore jointly responsible for ensuring that marketing activity conducted on Rio Ferdinand’s account was compliant with the CAP Code.
We then considered whether the post was obviously identifiable as a marketing communication and whether it made its commercial intent clear. The post featured the label #ad. However, the label appeared at the end of the caption at the bottom of a list of hashtags. We considered that the positioning of the label was not sufficiently prominent to make clear upfront to Instagram users engaging with the post that it was an ad. Furthermore, when the post was viewed on a mobile device, the #ad label would not have been visible unless users clicked on the “more” button.
Because the ad did not make clear upfront its commercial intent, we concluded it was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication, and therefore breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Codes rule 2.1 and 2.4 (Recognition of marketing communications).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Qatar Tourism t/a Visit Qatar and Rio Ferdinand to ensure that their future ads were obviously identifiable as marketing communications and the commercial intent was made clear, and that identifiers such as “#ad” were clearly and prominently displayed.