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Advertising watchdog cracks down on influencer marketing in ASOS case

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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There is abundant grey area when it comes to influencer marketing in the fashion realm. Many posts on social media are not obviously identifiable as advertising, with a lack of regulation and minimal standards having been put in place.

The British advertising watchdog ASA is cracking down on deceptive marketing practices, aiming to ensure all types of communications make their commercial intent clear to the user.

ASOS on Wednesday was deemed responsible for commercial intent for an Instagram post by influencer Zoe Sugg, of which the online fashion giant had no direct knowledge.

#ad not always clear

In July 2019 Sugg posted an Instagram Story in which she is wearing a floral maxi dress. The accompanying text stated: “Lots of you loving the dress I’m wearing in my newest photos!…it’s from @missselfridge Swipe up to shop… (Also popped it on my @liketoknowit profile if you’d rather shop straight from the app).” Additional text at the bottom right-hand side of the image, obscured by the direct message icon stated “*affiliate”. Swiping up on the story took users to a product page on the ASOS website. Nowhere in the text was the #ad mentioned.

ASOS said Zoe Sugg was an ASOS affiliate which meant that she could earn commission from ASOS sales through a third-party influencer network and said they made it clear to all of their affiliates that disclosure labels needed to be obvious and prominent. They further stated they did not have any advance knowledge of, or direct input or control over, the Instagram story in question.

According to the ASA the Instagram story was directly connected with the supply of goods provided by ASOS, and was an ad for the purposes of an affiliate commission. It acknowledged that ASOS had no direct input into or control over the ad, however as the direct beneficiaries of the marketing material through an affiliate programme, ASOS was found to be jointly responsible for the ad and its compliance with the CAP Code.

ASA research shows not all users are able to identify influencer advertising as “definitely an ad” even where “#ad” is positioned at the start of a text. The research findings demonstrate the challenge differentiating all types of advertising content – including traditional brand ads from other content on social media platforms. At the very least, an #ad must be prominent in a commercial post.

Image via ASOS media gallery

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