TikTok and Gogglebox influencer George Baggs recently had a vape advertisement removed from his social media page. The influencer was discovered promoting fruit-flavoured e-cigarettes on his TikTok account, which has been removed from the social media platform due to a violation of advertising guidelines. Despite being 19 years old, George was in breach of the law since the age for promoting vaping is 25, although the minimum age for using them is 18. It was ruled by The Advertising Standards Authority that George had violated its guidelines by endorsing the vapes, resulting in the removal of the advertisement and a ban on sharing any content featuring him holding one. Given the nature of TikTok, this advertisement could easily be exposed to a younger, non-following audience.
With the skyrocketing use of social media platforms, the emergence of influencers has become more prominent. It is evident that their persuasive techniques have the ability to impact purchasing decisions and opinions regarding products.
It is imperative for influencers to actively adhere to the Influencer Advertising Guidelines. This guarantees that consumers can then differentiate between regular content and advertisements of products, which are being promoted with the intention to influence the audience’s opinion in return for financial or commercial gain. The Department of Consumer Affairs made it mandatory for influencers to disclose sponsored content as per the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
All sponsored posts or advertisements on the influencer’s account must include a disclosure label, which clearly identifies the post as an advertisement for the brand or product. It is crucial that disclosures are prominent ensuring that it is not missed by the consumer. Furthermore, it must be presented in a manner that is well understood and in the language of the advertisement. According to the Committee of Advertising Practice Code, ads ‘must be obviously identifiable’.
Influencers are advised to carefully review and ensure that they can support the claims made in the advertisements they promote ethically. Moreover, it is of the utmost importance to consider the advertising of products to an audience of legal age. For instance, promoting e-cigarettes requires careful attention due to the potential exposure to a younger audience. In addition, consideration of the influencers’ own age must be considered.