The stance was even mentioned on BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat, hardly the place you’d usually expect to hear this type of news.
It just isn’t good enough for PRs or bloggers to think ‘I didn’t know’ will work as an excuse now.
This is perhaps the most direct statement the ASA has made to bloggers and marketers – many new bloggers or PRs could be forgiven for having a hazy understanding prior to this point.
It has, however, been made in a conversational tone, which is why I thought it was important to distil it into its four key points:
1. If a blogger is paid to say something positive then it becomes an advertisement and they must disclose it. Bloggers can and should make it clear if their blog contains paid-for content by signposting it as 'ad', 'advertorial' or 'sponsored content'.
2. Bloggers must not falsely present themselves as consumers, i.e. giving a view that appears to be opinion but that is actually paid for. This is a Trading Standards issue as well as one for the ASA to investigate.
3. Although the blogger would be named as part of any ASA investigation into misleading advertising, the buck stops with the advertiser. If a paid-for entry on a blog wasn’t disclosed the ASA would investigate and hold the advertiser accountable.
4. The rules DO NOT prohibit PR companies sending free gifts or samples to bloggers in the hope of receiving a positive review.
Time and again you hear about marketers thinking they can get away with putting pressure on bloggers to promote clients without declaring when money has changed hands.
I know personally of situations where bloggers have agreed to accept more money than was initially offered in order to refrain from declaring paid posts and this is clearly wrong on both sides.
The ASA has been clear about disingenuity of any kind, even stating that bloggers that falsely present themselves as a consumer, when in fact their ‘opinion’ is paid for, can expect a knock at the door from Trading Standards, too.
In my experience since starting bloggabase, the majority of bloggers are more interested in client products and services that are relevant for their blog and readers than they are in monetising, but both parties need to be aware of the rules and what happens when these paid promotion rules are broken.
As both a PR person and a blogger, I’m happy the ASA made the decision to make its position clear.
Rich Leigh is a co-founder of blogger outreach database bloggabase.com, a database of thousands of opted-in bloggers, and was previously a senior account director at Frank PR