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Almost half of Irish influencer brand deals not flagged as advertisements online

The Social Media Influencers Report found that influencers used “poor levels of labelling” on online advertising content.

Photo: Stock/Depositphotos

Neasa CumiskeySunday World

Almost half of all Irish influencer advertising content on social media is not tagged as a brand deal, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has reported.

The Social Media Influencers Report, which was published today and draws on research from October 2021 and April 2022, found that influencers used “poor levels of labelling” on online advertising content.

Almost half (48.4pc) of the commercial content reviewed by the CCPC was not labelled as advertising in any way and was an “area of particular concern”, with many participants agreeing that clear guidance on advertisement tags would be beneficial for everyone.

Meanwhile, a whopping 90pc of consumers said that they don’t trust information provided by influencers. However, while social media users are sceptical of influencers in general, they do appear to trust the influencers they follow.

The CCPC research also found that that many consumers who bought as a result of influencer promotions feel they sold a product that was inadequate.

Speaking about the latest report, Kevin O’Brien of the CCPC said: “We conducted over the last 12 months a detailed piece of research into this area, and it’s an area where consumers don’t really complain so it’s one we wanted to explore ourselves.

“We looked at about 7,500 pieces of content - videos, reels, photographs, all sorts of things across the key platforms. We also looked at about 70 influencers who are popular in Ireland.

“There are about four million on social media in Ireland and of that, around one million follow influencers. So, it’s quite significant, maybe bigger than we thought, and it’s a rapidly evolving area.

“Of those one million people, 66pc say they’ve bought a product because of the advice of an influencer. Quite a high proportion of those were disappointed afterwards and felt they were misled.

“In fact, 5pc of the adult population felt they were misled by an influencer in terms of something that they bought.”

Mr O’Brien explained that there is “real confusion” around how influencers should label advertisements and said that guidelines need to be clearer.

“There’s real confusion about tagging and labelling. In a lot of cases, it doesn’t exist where it should – where it’s clearly an advertisement.

“Often times it’s abbreviated - ‘brand ambassador’ is ‘BA’. There’s real confusion out there both for influencers and for consumers who are digesting the material. That’s our key concern.

“If an influencer is receiving some sort of payment or gift, it is therefore a commercial activity. If an influencer buys a product themselves, gives an independent review, that’s really valuable. That’s a good thing for consumers and is a good thing to have.

“But once they’re in a commercial relationship with a brand or company, the game changes, the incentives change, and they need to be really transparent about that.”

He added that the CCPC plans to work with the Advertising Standards Authority to “inform the influencers of the rules”.

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