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Former Miss Ireland Aoife Walsh reprimanded by watchdog over bottled water Instagram post

Watchdog said Ms Walsh had not made it clear enough she was taking part in a paid promotion

Aoife Walsh Picture: Brian McEvoy

By Seán McCárthaigh

Former Miss Ireland and social media influencer, Aoife Walsh, has been reprimanded by an advertising watchdog for not fully clarifying that she was taking part in a paid promotion of a bottled water product.

The Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland partly upheld a complaint against Ms Walsh that she had breached its code over a post and story on her Instagram account where she talked about Tipperary Water and its new sustainable eco-carton.

A complaint was made to the ASAI that the promotion was misleading as Ms Walsh had not made it clear that she had taken part in a paid collaboration with Tipperary Water on her Instagram account which has over 50,000 followers.

In parts of the post, the word “AD” is featured in a white text on a white background.

In reply to the ASAI, the company said it had made it clear to Ms Walsh that the post should be marked as a collaboration between her and Tipperary Water and it was intended that “paid partnership with Tipperary Water” would be used in the post.

While the post had been flagged as a collaboration using the #collab hashtag, the company said it did not consider it had gone far enough to meet the ASAI standard.

Tipperary Water said it had now amended its quality assurance process to include a further content check before sign-off to prevent similar errors in future.

Ms Walsh, a native of Co Tipperary who won the Miss Ireland contest in 2013, told the ASAI that she always had and would continue to follow ASAI guidelines.

The 32-year-old model, who also operates a blog called That Ginger Chick, said the static post had clearly marked it as “collab” which she regarded as an industry standard and a term often used in paid promotions.

Ms Walsh said she always used either “collab” “ad” or “sp” to make it clear to her followers that what they were seeing involved a paid partnership.

She claimed she used “ad” in all her stories in relation to the collaboration with Tipperary Water and considered it had been made very visible to viewers.

The ASAI noted that research showed that only 4% of consumers who used social media identified “collab” as an advertising disclosure.

In its ruling, the ASAI observed that they did not consider that “collab” was a clear indication of commercial content and advised that its use should be discontinued.

The advertising watchdog also noted that there was a significant difference in the clarity of the images of the promotion provided by Ms Walsh and the complainant.

While the ASAI accepted the influencer had included the word “ad” in the story, it did not consider that every part of the promotion clearly showed the word due to the colour of the text against the background imagery.

It directed that the advertisement should not reappear in its current form.

Another social media influencer, Michelle Fox, who runs an Instagram account on health and beauty products, was also found in breach of the ASAI’s advertising code for failing to state she acted as a brand ambassador for cosmetic firm, Inglot, in every part of a post.

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