To the argument “it needs to be abundantly clear that you’re being paid to promote a product” on Twitter, I say posts containing branded URLs or discounts for haircuts already fulfil this criteria.
Labelling every single marketing-focused tweet with #ad would be like scrawling “this is an advert, make sure you want to buy this product before you buy it” across every billboard, poster, side of a bus, leaflet, flyer and printed ad in existence. Do we need to be reminded an image of Wayne Rooney looking stern and wearing a Nike shirt is an advert for the Nike shirt?
If you were to liken this practice to established rules and regulation, consider the imitation feature articles in national papers that have ‘Advertorial’ printed across the top of a page. This has always seemed strange to me. If you can’t fathom an 800 word feature article on a trouser press is an advertisement, how on earth did you make it to the shops to buy a paper without tripping over your idiocy. These advertorial labels must exist to safeguard papers against being sued by anyone who brought a trouser press under the impression the ‘bedroom dressing and equipment correspondent’ had recommended it to them. Every major or B-list celeb does not need the same safeguard.
The question on social media’s “constantly evolving” state doesn’t hold much mustard either. In such an evolving state consistency becomes more important, not less. Why bother to legislate at all if you’re simply look at the situation afresh each time. In any case, as quickly as social media does evolve, Twitter didn’t change that much between the Snickers and Nike rulings.
This is not ranting at the ASA for no reason. Just this morning, for example, a very sensible and consistent judgement was reported. Where the ASA had previously ruled on T-Mobile’s use of the term “truly unlimited” (against, by the way), they’d also stumbled into defining which services can be called “truly unlimited”. So when Virgin Media compiled Sky’s use of “totally unlimited downloads” was misleading, Sky simply pointed to the T-Mobile ruling and low and behold the ASA confirms they’re in the right.
Proof the ASA can be consistent. Now if they could just inch that thinking over to Twitter we’d all be set.