Influencer marketing has caught the eye of a UK self-regulatory body tasked with protecting “young and vulnerable people” from gambling ads.

This article contains Frequently Asked Questions related to ASA’s official stance on promotion of gambling products and influencer marketing.

In May 2018, the United Kingdom Advertising Standards Authority initiated an investigation into an affiliate relationship between high street betting shops operator Ladbrokes Coral and MTV reality show Geordie Shore cast members Gary Beadle (pictured), Scott Timlin and Aaron Chalmers.

Images of the since-removed “gambling ads” from the trio, who wield a combined social media follower base of more than 15 million fans, can be found within the article below. It was published by BBC News business editor Helen Thomas — who is a contributing member to the BBC Radio 5 Live team (led by Adrian Chiles) that originally broke the story.

Helen Thomas Influencer Marketing

Helen Thomas – BBC Newsnight Business Editor – @helentbbc

Article: Geordie Shore Stars Investigated for Gambling ‘Ads’ (BBC Radio 5 Live – May 11, 2018)

Although the case has been “informally closed,” the self-regulatory organization for UK’s ad industry stated that it “will not hesitate to take further, more formal, action if the problem persists.”

ASA’s guidelines for Influencer Marketing address a number of Frequently Asked Questions connected to the disclosure of “affiliate” relationships and the targeting of young and vulnerable people in online gambling advertisements posted by high profile social media stars on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and other platforms.

The following FAQs Guide is created as a resource for online gambling consumers, media, and operators who are interested in learning more about Influencer Marketing restrictions in the online gaming space.

The information contained below is relevant exclusively to the United Kingdom gambling market, and does not intertwine with regulated U.S. iGaming interests — which are licensed and regulated separately by statewide officials in those jurisdictions.

With that said, the language contained within ASA’s official response to gambling ad restrictions could be useful to American-based poker personalities who wish to become familiar with topics related to how paid endorsements for online gambling services are perceived by the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP).

UK Gambling Advertisement Code – FAQs Guide: Influencer Marketing

Rupa Shah UK CAP - Influencer Marketing

Rupa Shah – UK Advertising Standards Authority CAP Compliance Team

SOURCE MATERIAL: Online Influencers – Is it an #ad? (Rupa Shah – CAP Opinion Piece – Aug 21, 2017)
SUPPLEMENTAL: UK Code for Non-Broadcast Gambling Advertising (ASA/CAP CODE #16)
SUPPLEMENTAL: UK Code for Broadcast Gambling Advertising (ASA/CAP/BCAP CODE #17)
ANALYSIS: Engaging New Audiences via Social Media Influence (Affiliate Insider – Jun 26, 2018)

1. How do the UK Committees for Advertising Practice define influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is when brands contract with high profile social media personalities to “discuss, photograph, recommend and sometimes just insert themselves into conversations about a product.”

2. What defines a gambling “ad” from an influencer?

Shah opines that “when the brand has control over the content of the post and rewards the influencer with a payment, free gift, or other perk, the post becomes an ad.”

3. Should influencers disclose commercial agreements with brands even if it is unclear whether the communication falls into the realm of an advertisement?

Yes. “If the commercial intent isn’t clear from the overall context of the communication, it should be labelled as an ad so as not to break the ASA’s rules and mislead the influencer’s audience.”

4. Are influencers allowed creative reign over “genuine opinions” that they may post, in which no commercial relationship between the two parties exists?

Yes. In these cases, the communication published by the influencer does not fall under the definition of an “ad.”

5. Which party is burdened with the “primary responsibility” for compliance with ad guidelines between brands and their collaborators?

Generally speaking under CAP Non-Broadcast advertising code, the brands are. However, “agencies,” “publishers,” and “other service suppliers” are also tasked with abiding by these rules.

For influencer marketing, both parties are held “to public account, including ASA rulings.” Furthermore, Shah states that “the negative publicity that arises from our interventions can erode consumers’ trust in the brand and followers’ trust in the influencer; so, neither party wins from a failure to disclose advertising as such.”

6. How are influencer/brand relationships maintained, according to Rupa Shah?

In some cases, Shah says that brands will retain 100% creative control over the content that an influencer shares with his/her follower base, including supplying the images, text, and schedule time of a particular advertisement.

There are other instances when brands reach an agreement with the influencer that he/she will post positive comments while leaving final creative control up to the social media personality.

Rupa Shah - Influencer Marketing

Rupa Shah – Influencer Marketing Training (IMAGE CREDIT: Hashtag Ad Consulting)

“In each case, where we’ve established the brand has paid for and exercised effective control over the influencer endorsement and the commercial intent isn’t clear from the overall context of the communication, we tend to stay firm and secure assurances that future ads will no longer be ‘hidden’ behind a purportedly authentic endorsement,” adds Shah.

The UK CAP Compliance Team member also makes reference to how it may be impossible for brands to assume split-second monitoring liability for new ads that are posted by influencers, but that a “high level of control” can still be maintained over the content via “contractual obligations.”

7. Are these guidelines a driving factor in why so many United Kingdom social media personalities are now placing #ad text within the content of their posts?

Yes. The United Kingdom ASA and CAP is working to ensure that gambling advertisements are easily identifiable to all consumers, and do not target young or vulnerable people.

Social media influencers, even outside the United Kingdom, are responding by placing clear identifiers in their communications when a commercial relationship exists with the brand being mentioned.

Such methods include adding the phrase #ad within the content of a post, or overwriting images with a similar disclosure message.

8. Can advertisers seek clarification on existing CAP code for gambling advertisements?

Yes. Advertisers who are concerned with “staying on the right side of the line” are encouraged to use this ASA/CAP contact page for further inquiries.

Rupa Shah also provides advisory services to brands through her private firm, Hashtag Ad Consulting.

* This article is directly funded by Part Time Poker as a service to all parties interested in learning more about Influencer Marketing for UK gambling product ad campaigns on social media.

Read More UK Gambling Regulation News from Part Time Poker

Victoria Coren Mitchell and the War Against UK FOBT Machines (May 21, 2018)
UK Betting Shop Wager Restrictions Delayed Until 2020 (Jun 18, 2018)
Lee-Ann Johnstone Interview on UK Gambling Advertisement Rules (May 6, 2018)

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FEATURED IMAGE: Manchester Evening News photo of Gary “Gaz” Beadle