… and the Labeling Obligation of Advertising Posts
Bloggers and influencers play an important role in marketing. Brands spend a lot of money to post on successful blogs or Instagram accounts. This raises the question of whether the commercial purpose of a post must be clearly identifiable. Are hashtags such as #ad, #spon or #sponsoredby sufficient, for example, or must “advertisement” clearly and explicitly appear above the post?
Thus the influencer scene goes through the same clarification process as was already the case in the print and online media. In recent years there has been the trend to place advertising articles in an editorial context. Advertorial, native advertising or content marketing are common terms for this. These must be clearly identified, for example by “advertisement” or “sponsored mail”.
To clarify the situation in the blogger and influencer area there are now judgements such as that of OLG Celle, which deals with the use of the hashtag #ad.
A well-known influencer (more than 1 million followers) had posted a contribution for the drugstore chain Rossmann on Instagram and had also been paid for it. At the end of the post are six hashtags, the second of which was #ad. The Court found that this marking was not sufficient. The commercial purpose must come to the fore at first glance, the Higher Regional Court ruled. One may assume that this view would also apply to hashtags like #spon or #sponsoredby.
Blogger Vreni Frost had another problem with her blog Neverever.me. Although she marks clearly pure advertising or press trips, she received a warning letter from the Verband Sozialer Wettbewerb (VSW) because she had tagged brands on three pictures. Vreni Frost asserts that she bought the products herself and did not mention their brand names in the captions. The VSW is probably an institution whose first goal is to send warning letters. If you google the association you will find a lot of search results which suggest this. But that doesn’t help Vreni Frost. She says that she can withstand the dispute, but she cannot bear the costs involved.
Crisis of confidence
The topic behind the topic is ultimately a crisis of trust between bloggers and influencers on the one hand and their followers on the other. The latter often follow with great and also naive enthusiasm and can be strongly influenced. Since the operators earn good money with their blogs and Instagram accounts in the meantime partially also, doubts lets arise whether each good tip really represents the honest opinion of the influencers. If the study “Influencer 2.0” by the Düsseldorf media, content and technology agency Wavemaker is correct, then for 57 per cent of those surveyed influencers are primarily people who earn money through social media. The PR journal writes:
“Around three-quarters of respondents (74 per cent) believe that influencers lose credibility when they cooperate with brands that do not fit their image. In general, influencers lose sympathy among 41 per cent of consumers as a result of brand co-operations. One third of consumers (33 per cent) are fundamentally opposed to cooperation between influencers and brands. In order to maintain credibility, it is particularly important to the followers that the influencers visibly mark the cooperation or advertising (66 per cent) and that they do not constantly advertise products in their contributions (64 per cent). Overall, influencers should only present products that fit their personality and life (63 per cent).”
Labeling must be for the protection of users
A clear label such as “advertisement” for an advertorial seems to be the right way to enable transparency and restore credibility. The user has the chance to decide for oneself whether he also wants to read the purchased posts. This is certainly not in the interest of advertisers in principle, but certainly in the interest of users. For advertisers, however, Vreni Frost’s statement that it would not affect readers [in their usage behavior] whether advertising is above a post office should have a reassuring effect.
PR-Journal: Studie: Influencer in der Vertrauenskrise