Molly-Mae Hague has been reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for breaking its rules on Instagram.
Hague, 20, captioned the image: “A/W, I’m ready [brown leaf emoji]” and tagged the online retailer, but did not write “#ad” or an equivalent note to disclose her partnership with the brand.
The complainant argued that the post broke advertising rules because it was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication.
Pretty Little Thing responded to the claim by confirming that Hague is one of their brand ambassadors but the post in question was of her own volition and not prompted by the company.
The company described the post as an “organic” feed post that was not part of their contractual agreement with Hague and noted that all paid posts should be identified via a “paid partnership with PrettyLittleThing” tag.
Pretty Little Thing also stated that it had no prior knowledge of Hague’s post, nor did they have any control over it, which was reiterated to the ASA by Hague via her agent.
But the ASA decided to uphold the complaint, citing the code of non-broadcast advertising and direct and promotional marketing (CAP Code).
“The CAP Code stated that marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such, and that they made clear their commercial intent, if that was not obvious from context,” they said.
“In addition, marketers and publishers must make clear that advertorials were marketing communications. The ASA understood that there was a financial agreement in place between Prettylittlething.com Ltd and Molly-Mae Hague under which she would be a Brand Ambassador for Prettylittlething.com Ltd.”
The ASA added that Hague identifies herself as a brand ambassador for Pretty Little Thing in her Instagram bio but explained that because people might come across her posts without following her (and therefore being familiar with her commercial partnership with Pretty Little Thing), some users might’ve seen the post and not known about her brand ambassadorship.
“For all of those reasons, we considered that the post itself would need to be obviously identifiable as a marketing communication,” the watchdogs added.
“We did not consider that the post contained any obvious indications of a commercial relationship. The post referred to Ms Hague’s being ready for ‘A/W’, which we understood to be an abbreviation for an ‘Autumn/Winter’ fashion collection.
“We noted that Ms Hague tagged @prettylittlething to the image, but we did not consider the content of the post made clear whether it was advertising, as opposed to, for example, genuinely independent editorial content. Therefore in the absence of a clear identifier, such as “#ad”, we concluded that the post was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication and that it breached the Code.”
The ASA ruled that the Instagram post must not appear in the form complained of again.
A spokesperson for Pretty Little Thing (PLT) provided the following statement regarding the ruling: “PLT is aware of the ASA guidelines and strives to ensure all its Influencer ads comply with ASA guidelines.
“In this instance, the post made by Molly-Mae was an organic, unpaid post in which Molly tagged PLT in the image. PLT and Molly will continue working together to ensure the ‘paid partnership’ tag is used, where relevant, in all further posts.”
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