Snickers beat the rap, Nike were busted but are appealing and then TOWIE star Gemma Collins got a ticking off for getting her hair done. All ran forms of advertising on Twitter and every time it happened there was a bit of a Twitter brouhaha and some ranting at the ASA (including some particularly lucid points from CommsTalk’s own @simonhill).
The thrust of most arguments is that there needs to be a “common sense approach” and, in the ASA’s defence, I’d say there is one: it needs to be abundantly clear that you’re being paid to promote a product.
Twitter now has 10 million users in the UK, that’s roughly one in six of the total population, so Twitter is no longer a little bubble full of media and tech types, all eagerly enforcing accepted norms, cynically flushing out ne’er-do-wells on the net to vent their opprobrium. As more and more of the population sign up, the less we can assume that everyone’s able to tell what’s a paid-for promotion and what’s not. Beyond the hardcore mega users who tweet compulsively, there are an increasing number who simply listen or who tweet in an ad hoc manner. Twitter is something they dip in and out of. These users may only pick up snapshots and not necessarily entire conversations. Do they need to be safeguarded? No. Is it reasonable to expect ads to explicitly flagged so there’s no confusion>? Emphatically, yes.
The other argument usually thrust forward focuses on consistency. Well, of course there’ll be some inconsistency. Social networks are new and constantly evolving. Marketers are constantly thinking of new ways to exploit them. It’s unreasonable to expect regulators to draw a clear line and stick to it when the playing field is shifting. Change throws up inconsistencies. The ASA should be applauded for attempting to grasp the issues and protect consumers.