#Ad Spells Fear for Brands

Use of celebrity endorsements on social media have arguably become one of, if not the most craved sponsorship asset for many millennial-focused brands. Whether it be sport stars, pop stars, or people just famous for being famous, the upper echelon of these role models has such power and influence over society, and brands have benefited hugely from alignments since the social boom.

With certain role models boasting multi-million figures in terms of followers it’s easy to understand why brands are happy to pay out such significant fees to these influencers for product endorsements on social platforms such as YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, and it has proved a winning tactic dating back to the 1760’s where Wedgwood, producers of pottery and chinaware, used royal endorsements – in a time of divine right you can only imagine the influence that had on society.

The power of having someone you admire and look up to endorse a certain product or service is unquestionable, yet brands understand that to fully maximise the commercial potential there is a need to develop a stronger, longer term association with their chosen influencer so that all endorsements come across as authentic. Hence why brands decide to strike up sponsorship arrangements, partly because it is cost effective but also to change the perceptions of these influencers from a celebrity endorser to more of a brand ambassador.

Through sponsorship, brands can purchase rights to access these influencers across a variety of platforms creating a much stronger connection with the ambassador, which resonates better with the influencers’ audience. Within the terms of such sponsorship agreements, brands will add in exclusivity clauses effectively banning the ambassador from promoting a rival brand whilst contracted, again adding to the illusion that the millionaire role model really does shop at H&M!

However, recently the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) have been clamping down on this clear attempt by brands to subtly influence society – the 21st century version of subliminal messaging. ASA have stated that “if content is an advertisement, it should be obviously identifiable to consumers using the hashtag #ad” and there have already been several high-profile cases whereby brands and celebrities have been reprimanded.

Although this seems like a small formality to add onto the end of a Tweet, Instagram post or vlog, brands now need to ensure that this clause is written into contracts to avoid hefty fines. In addition to this extra bit of housekeeping, the hashtag has the capability to cause a much bigger problem for brands. These two letters have the potential to completely spoil the illusion for consumers and ruin the authenticity that a brand may have invested in for years. Therefore, it will be interesting to see how brands look to counter and gloss over this in future.