The New ASA Rules And Is The End Of The PR Package?

I do not doubt that you have seen the new rules that EVERY BLOGGER ON THE PLANET (lol just in the UK) is talking about right now and discussing, but in case you’re not clued up, in short, there are new laws and regulations that influencers now have to follow when disclosing products. Whenever a blogger works with a brand, they are now under legal laws to disclose how they have worked with the brand/ what the relationship is and whether they are being paid to post.

There are many issues with the new rules, although I totally agree that there should be strict rules and should be consequences for those who don’t follow, but it seems that those who have released the rules have not spoken to a single blogger in their entire life. Their goal is transparency and eliminating confusion, yet they have released the most confusing rules ever! Here is how the new rules apply to bloggers and how they work with brands:

Paid partnership- If you are working with a brand on a paid partnership, it needs to be marked clearly at the start of the post with AD. A paid promotion involves monetary compensation for your creation, and means that the brand has had control over the post/ the message you are putting forward/ how you are promoting their product.

Gifted- If you have been sent a product, regardless of whether you knew the product was going to land on your doorstep or not, it needs to be marked clearly at the start of the post with AD. Now this will cause a lot of confusion, for me personally, about 70% of the gifts I receive are surprises, they land on my doorstep and I have never tried them before/ didn’t know they were coming and am under no obligation to post. By labelling this as an AD, people will be getting very confused about the relationship I have with the brand, why and how I am speaking about the product and the very nature of the post. Very confusing indeed.

Affiliate links- If you do not know what an affiliate link is, it’s a way for bloggers who earn a tiny commission on your purchase. It doesn’t affect your purchase in any way, just like how buying a sofa in store does not effect your purchase, but the shop assistant will earn a reward on your buy. We earn pennies from affiliate links and can get the links through third party apps- meaning that I can earn money from a brand which I have no relationship with what-so-ever. The ASA have now stated that affiliate links need to be marked clearly with AD which is EVEN MORE CONFUSING for your audience. They are now seeing AD on a post where you may not have ANY involvement with the brand. They have no control over what you have posted. You bought the product off your own back AND you did all the hard work when it came to sourcing the product and linking it for your followers, yet somehow you need to mark this as an AD? How confusing is that.

Long Term Partnerships- a new ruling which is causing the most uproar is the long term partnership rule- the ASA have now declared that if you work with a brand (and ‘work with’ constitutes to anything that they require you to put AD on, so this could be anything from you being paid to promote something, to something you were gifted to receiving a 20% off code from the brand), you must declare that for the next year.

To put this into context, let’s use topshop as an example. They paid me to promote a product. 3 months down the line, I buy a new pair of jeans with my own money and wear them in a post, now within the post I must declare that I have previously worked with Topshop in the past. WUT.

Many of these rules cause issues, but this for me is the biggest. What if I am gifted a bedding set from Sainsbury’s home? Does that mean that I have to declare my weekly shop as an Ad for the next year? And what if I am working (paid post) with a brand, I will have to declare EVERY relationship with the brands of every item in the post. Which in turn, breaks the contract with the brand (as they all specify in contracts that you cannot mention other brands in paid posts). It is such a messy situation where so many of us don’t know where we stand.

The main thing with this all that has gotten me thinking is about PR packages and accepting gifts from brands and the main question is

Is this the end of the PR package?

PR packages are a great marketing tool for brands, I personally love watching people show me the new releases which they have been sent through unboxings and openings. But with these new rules, will accepting gifts even be worth it? If we have to mark everything as an AD anyway, accepting a £12 lipstick is just not worth the implications you have for the next year’s worth of content.

Brands will have to clue themselves up on these trends quickly, as if this is the case, they will have to find a new way to showcase their new-in products.

The main issue with this whole things is the hypocrisy of it all. As an industry, we are targeted so much for everything we do. Brands have been sending out PR packages to magazines for years, but I don’t see #AD next to those top 10 lipstick that Vogue tells me that I NEED this winter. I don’t see #AD next to the dress being featured on the cover. So why do we have such strict rules?

If you are in the industry yourself, it is worth clueing yourself up on the new (absurd) rules just to make sure that you don’t get caught out- and as long as you are doing everything you can to be as open, honest and transparent with your audience, then you’re doing the best that you can do.

Photography- Ami Ford Photo