There has been a noticeable increase in the use of social media influencers to promote retail brands and their products. The most recent ruling relates to a post by 2019 Love Island contestant Molly Mae Hague, who is also a brand ambassador for online fashion brand retailer, Pretty Little Thing (PLT).

The complainant challenged whether the post was obviously identifiable as a marketing communication.  

PLT argued that they had no prior knowledge of the post nor any control over it. They also stated that the post was an "organic post" - i.e. not related to Molly Mae's contractual relationship with the brand - and therefore did not need to be tagged as a "paid partnership with prettylittlething" (which was a requirement in her contract). She did however tag @prettylittlething in her post.

The ASA upheld that marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such (e.g. by including #ad at the beginning of the post). Although PLT did not provide a copy of the contract, the ASA understood that there was a financial agreement between PLT and Molly Mae. The influencer identified herself as a brand ambassador for PLT in her Instagram bio, which was visible to the public and meant that her posts could be seen in isolation without users needing to follow her profile. The post could therefore be seen in isolation without users seeing her profile and the statement about her relationship with the brand.

This ruling serves as a reminder that brands who use influencers for social media marketing need to ensure that the parameters around the relationship are clear and request that they are notified by the individual before "organic" posts are uploaded to public profiles.