Artificial Intelligence (AI) that evaluates activity by social media influencers and assesses if they are disclosing content correctly or not is to be implemented by the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI), the independent, self-regulatory body committed to promoting the highest standards of marketing communications in Ireland.
The announcement comes as the organisation unveils new research that reveals that a lack of authenticity, edited photos, too many paid ads and influencers misrepresenting real life are the top traits that cause annoyance amongst Irish consumers.
The survey was conducted as part of the ASAI’s ongoing commitment to understand consumer issues and concerns regarding influencer marketing, so the organisation can continue to proactively provide guidance in this area and increase the monitoring of those who consistently breach the advertising code. The survey results are based on the views of 1,000 participants across a broad demographic, interviewed online and representative of the adult population.
Nearly 7 in 10 (67%) are familiar with the practice of influencer marketing, with awareness being highest (75%) amongst those age 35 and under. A majority (71%) believe that when an influencer posts an ad, they are being paid by the brand to post positive content, which is slightly down from 80% in 2021.
While the research found that 84% of consumers use social media apps frequently and almost 40% of those use it for tips or inspiration, consumer confidence in what they’re seeing online is still extremely low, with just one in 10 consumers having trust in influencers’ posts, while over 62% believe that influencers post too much sponsored content. Echoing similar results to the recent Social Media Influencer Report released by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) in December, this research reveals that there is a severe lack of trust between influencers and consumers.
Some of the top traits people find most ‘annoying’ from influencers according to the ASAI research include edited photos (67%) and influencers who do not come across as authentic (63%). Almost 60% of Irish consumers (56%) trust brand advertisements more than social posts by influencers. As was the case in 2021 according to the ASAI’s first Influencer Marketing Survey, over half (51%) of people in Ireland say they are concerned by the lack of transparency in influencer marketing.
The research also provides insight into people’s understanding of the use of hashtags and labelling in online advertising. Over half of consumers (55%) were able to reference various hashtags or phrases used to identify influencer advertising content – down 11% since last year. Among the most frequently recognised were #sponsored (61%), #ad (55%) and #paidpartnership (46%). However, 59% of people confirmed they didn’t recognise #sp and 54% didn’t recognise the hashtag #iworkwith. 71% of people were aware that when an influencer posts an affiliate link that they are being paid by the brand being linked.
While the majority of people might find these results surprising, the ASAI has found that some of the statistics in fact correspond with what the organisation has discovered already as part of their ongoing work in the area of Influencer Marketing. For example, the ASAI has strict guidelines around the disclosure of influencer content, having introduced revised guidance on the ‘Recognisability of Marketing Communications’ in 2021. This guidance note covered commercial content created on behalf of brands as well as commercial content created by influencers for their own products and services. However, the results of this research indicate that there is a need for additional guidance for both consumers and influencers, particularly around labelling, correct ways to disclose and to re-enforce the importance of influencers adhering to the Advertising Code.
The ASAI are working with the CCPC on updated guidance to ensure there is increased clarity in relation to responsibilities and requirements from influencers when advertising on social media.
Commenting on the research, Orla Twomey, Chief Executive of the ASAI, said:
“As we can see from this research over half those surveyed remain bothered by both the lack of transparency in influencer marketing and not being able to distinguish content from advertising, which echoes similar results to the Social Media Influencer Report released by the CCPC last December. Both the ASAI research and the CCPC report show that there is a need for more transparency from influencers with regard to labelling their sponsored content clearly and correctly, as well as more guidance and education for both consumers and influencers alike in this space. To help with this we are planning to continue implementing the use of AI tools and working with the CCPC to develop further guidance.”
Kevin O’Brien, Member of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission said:
“The CCPC welcomes the ASAI’s on-going work on consumers’ understanding of how influencers and brands operate on social media platforms. Similar to our own research, published late last year, the ASAI’s research reinforces that platforms and brands must take greater responsibility for educating and informing their users and consumers, and must support influencers in clearly and consistently labelling paid content so that consumers are not misled. We look forward to working with the ASAI in developing guidance which will assist influencers, brands and consumers in this regard.”
The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland is committed, in the public interest, to promoting the highest standards of marketing communications that is advertising, promotional marketing, and direct marketing. The objective is to ensure that all commercial marketing communications are ‘legal, decent, honest and truthful’.
Media are required to abide by the Code and not to publish an advertisement or conduct a promotion which contravenes Code rules. The Code covers commercial marketing communications and sales promotions in all media in Ireland including digital (online banners, websites, and social platforms), print, outdoor, radio, TV, leaflets/brochures, and direct marketing.
Further information on advertising self-regulation, the ASAI, and the operation of the system is available at www.asai.ie