4 Rules That Stop Your Celebrity Social Media Campaign From Getting Banned By The ASA

By Tiffany St James
29 Nov 2012

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Do you work with celebrity brand ambassadors? After some notable bans this year, we explore best practice for involving high-profile people in social media campaigns

This year, the ASA has both banned and scrutinised a number of UK Twitter campaigns. But what did they do wrong, and how can you make sure your campaign lives on?

Transparency is key – best practice says that you should always include #ad or #spon in each tweet that’s sent as part of a campaign.

And if you’re the agency responsible for the campaign, the onus is on you to make sure that your brand ambassadors make it clear that they’ve received payment or goods in return for their involvement.

What did Nike do?

This year Nike became the first UK company to have a Twitter campaign banned by the ASA.

Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshere, two celebrity brand ambassadors for Nike, sent tweets from their personal accounts referencing the Nike strapline – make it count:

‘My resolution – to start the year as a champion, and finish it as a champion… #makeitcount gonike.me/makeitcount’

Why was it banned?

The ASA ruled that using Wayne’s and Jack’s personal accounts broke the rules: the tweets weren’t clearly marked marketing communications. The ASA said:

•    The Nike reference was not prominent and could be missed
•    Not all twitter users would be aware of Nike’s #makeitcount campaign
•    Not all twitter users would be aware of Nike’s sponsorship of the team

What did Mars do?

Earlier this year Rio Ferdinand, Katie Price, Sir Ian Botham and previous X-factor contestant Cher Lloyd sent a series of 5 tweets within 1 hour for Mars using their personal accounts. On their final tweet, each posted a photo showing them them biting into or pointing at a photograph of a Snickers bar.

Really getting into the knitting!!! Helps me relax after high pressure world of the Premiership

Can’t wait to get home from training and finish the cardigan

Just popping out to get more wool!!!

Cardy finished. Now 4 the matching mittens!!!

You’re not you when you are hungry @snickersUK #hungry #spon

Great news about China’s latest GDP figures!!

Chinese leaders are now likely to loosen monetary policy to stimulate growth. Yay!!

OMG!! Eurozone debt problems can only properly be solved by true fiscal union!!! #comeonguys

Large scale quantitative easing in 2012 could distort the liquidity of govt. bond market. #justsayin

You’re not you when you’re hungry @snickersUk #hungry #spons…

The campaign received complaints that these were not clearly identifiable as marketing communications. Mars had the chance to respond with its case.

What did the ASA say?

•    Each tweet formed part of an orchestrated ad campaign.
•    Each tweet was considered as part of an ‘individual marketing communication’ at the point each was posted and therefore should have been marked accordingly
•    Mars’s suggestion that the first 4 tweets were teasers and the final tweet made it into one solid marketing communication was not upheld

The lack of labelling of the individual messages was acceptable in this instance because:

•    the first 4 tweets were relevant to the strapline;
•    they were sent in close time proximity to each other (1 hour)
•    the photo gave enough context

4 Rules to stop your campaign being banned by the ASA

If you’re part of an agency developing social media campaigns using Celebrity Brand Ambassadors, what do you need to know?

1.    In tweets by celebrities, ambassadors and bloggers, use #spon or #ad (#ad is 2 characters shorter, of course)

2.    Celebrities, ambassadors and bloggers have a duty to tell people they are being paid or have received free goods

3.    Bloggers have a duty to ensure that when linking to products or services for which they have been paid in money or free goods that the link has ‘no link back’ attribution in the code. This way, search engines do not wrongly give preferential page ranking to the post.

4.    As an agency, you have a duty to make these conditions stick


Fuller details on the Nike campaign ban in The Guardian: here
Assessment by the ASA on Mars Chocolate UK Ltd: here
UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing, CAP Code: here
Social Media, Legal and Commercial Best Practice, Nicola McCormick: here

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