An Instagram post and an Instagram story on Alexandra Felstead’s account @binkyfelstead:
a. The Instagram post, seen on 3 July, contained three images. One image featured Binky Felstead and a man standing in front of a living wall wearing a lanyard with Vodafone logos on it. A second Image showed Binky Felstead standing in front of the same living wall pointing at a Vodafone Logo which was on the wall. The accompanying comments stated “Tennis colours and a lovely day out with this one” and “Thank you @Vodafone UK for being such incredible hosts #feel the connection.”
b. The Instagram story, seen on 3 July, contained two images. The first image was in the Vodafone Lounge bar and showed a bartender wearing a Vodafone branded apron pouring a drink. This image was tagged with @Vodafone, #feeltheconnection and a location marker for Wimbledon. The second image showed Binky Felstead standing next to a living wall which contained the Vodafone logo.
The complainant challenged whether the post and story were identifiable as marketing communications.
Vodafone said they did not have a contractual agreement with Ms Felstead, but they did provide her with tickets to Wimbledon and invited her to their hospitality suite as a guest.
They agreed that the supply of the tickets and hospitality could be considered payment under the CAP Code. They did not believe, however, that they had editorial control over the content or posts and therefore did not believe that the posts were advertorials for the purposes of the Code.
Vodafone provided details of the communication sent to Ms Felstead’s agent regarding the provision of the tickets, which included informing her that their Head of Social Media and Content for Brand Marketing would welcome her at the suite and be available all day as a host only. They also provided a copy of a PDF which was sent to all of their guests encouraging them to share their Wimbledon experience by uploading stories and photos throughout the day tagging @VodafoneUK and using the hashtag #FeelTheConnection on Instagram. They considered that demonstrated she was under no obligation to post any stories or photos during the day. They said that their Head of Social Media and Content Brand Marketing did not recall any conversations regarding social media posts and there had been no expectation for her to post anything during the day. They said they did not have any approval over Ms Felstead’s posts.
Ms Felstead’s agency said she was not paid and was not required to create any social media posts. She amended the post with #Gifted.
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 assessed whether the post and story were marketing communications within the remit of the CAP Code. While we acknowledged that there was no commercial agreement between Vodafone and Ms Felstead, we considered that the provision of the free tickets constituted a payment to her.In assessing the degree of control Vodafone had over the posts, we acknowledged that there had been no explicit direction about what to share on social media or final approval requirements. However, we noted that the pre-visit communication from the Head of Social Media at Vodafone stated, “Please do share your Wimbledon experience by uploading stories and photos throughout the day, tagging @VodafoneUK and using the hashtag #FeelTheConnection on Instagram”. We considered those requests, and particularly the specification of a defined hashtag, amounted to an instruction on what to post, and ultimately a level of editorial control over the content of Ms Felstead’s post.
We therefore considered that this communication, along with providing her with support from the Head of Social Media and Content for Brand Marketing on the day, went beyond a hope that she would post something positive about them, to an expectation that she would. We therefore considered the posts were marketing communications for the purposes of the CAP Code, and should have been labelled as such.
We assessed the posts as they had appeared and considered there was nothing that made clear to those viewing that they were an ad. We acknowledged the addition of #gifted by Ms Felstead, however, we considered this was not sufficient to make clear to consumers it was an ad. We therefore concluded that the ads were not obviously identifiable as marketing communications and breached the Code.
The ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 2.1 2.1 Marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such. and 2.3 2.3 Marketing communications must not falsely claim or imply that the marketer is acting as a consumer or for purposes outside its trade, business, craft or profession; marketing communications must make clear their commercial intent, if that is not obvious from the context. (recognition of marketing communications).
The post and story must not appear again in their current form. We told Vodafone and Alexandra Felstead to ensure that their future ads were obviously identifiable as marketing communications, and that identifiers such as ‘#ad’ were used and were clearly and prominently displayed.