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To Declare Or Not To Declare | A Guide to ASA & CMA Regulation

4 min read.

The purpose of this article is to outline when you need to declare content as an Ad.

Protecting yourself, brand or influencer, is more vital than ever. You not only lose the creative work, but it also hinders the longterm reputation of both the Creators and the collaborating brand.

The conversation around advertising transparency on Instagram has been an ongoing affair, with the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) dominating the narrative in the UK for years now - as discussed in our 2018 article, ‘#AD: The Definitive Guide to Ads on Instagram’.

However, when the CMA (Competitions and Markets Authority) have entered the fray with the aim to set out clear points, regulations and punishments. All outlined in their recent article.

What follows is a breakdown of key advice for creators and brands working in the influencer marketing space. Covering the basics, how to cover yourself and advice moving forward.

Different Areas, Separate Rules

Before we enter the ring, it is crucial to stress that these changes are exclusive to the UK, therefore are not applicable across Europe, the US, Asia or any other major markets. Recognising the geographical differences are essential for both creators and brands alike.

For instance, many of us are aware that Germany has already implemented strict rules over the influencer ad space. Essentially, in their eyes, as an ‘influencer’ the very nature of your content influences consumers branded decisions - meaning that virtually all content has to be declared as communicating commercial intent.

So, What About The UK?


If you are under any obligation to share content for a brand, then this is an #Ad all the way. It’s as simple as that.

When sharing your work under an obligation to a brand, you must clearly label #Ad (preferably at the beginning of the caption) regardless of whether the brand has had creative input or not.

This is something Whalar has been championing for the last three years and can be found in our T&Cs. The difference is now, the CMA are tightening the screws.

#Ad, #Gifted, #Confused?

If a brand gives you a product or service without any obligation to share content on your social channels, and you then proceed to share of your own volition, then this is still remains #ad. For best practices, we encourage full transparency. For instance, starting your caption with "#Ad, Gifted. Thanks so much @XX for the badass slippers!"

In these situations, it’s important to remember that the new guidelines should actually help to validate your work and support you in receiving financial compensation when negotiating collaborations.

Still Confused? Try this breakdown.

At the beginning of each piece of content, we should be putting Ad. This includes:

Press tip = Ad
Press Product = Ad
PR Sample = Ad
Press Event = Ad
Press Invite = Ad
Gifted Product = Ad
Affililiate Link = Ad

Here’s where things begin to get complicated.

Following the above rules, if you have shared an #Ad post, the CMA’s guidelines now state that you are obliged to declare all future content featuring the previously advertised or gifted product, or service, within 12 months of the initial collaboration.

If you purchase a product or service from a brand that you have had a working relationship within the last 12 months, you must also declare all content featuring these items or experiences.

In short you have to declare the former, or ongoing, relationship. This does not have to be in the form of '#AD', but it must be stated. E.g. "I worked with them previously but this is not an ad (or items from a previous collaboration)." - Or something similar :).

"Paid Partnership"

Regarding the paid partnership tool, this should not be used as a substitute for #AD. Firstly, unless the client has approved it, you can’t access it. Brands often outsource their social media to other agencies, and thus getting approval on instagram may take some time and effort, particularly when dealing with large-scale influencer campaigns.  Secondly, should that content then be shared to Facebook or Twitter, as a lot of content is, it loses the 'paid partnership' status and is therefore non ASA compliant. Any individual could be liable for a significant fine if this occurs.


With these rules ever tightening, influencers are now more than ever considering who they partner with and why. Taking fewer campaigns that means more to your personal brand is more crucial than ever. In addition, reducing the amount of products sent reduces environmental impacts and helps legitimise a Creator's collaborations.

When creating content, be as transparent about your intentions as possible; Always protect yourself and your work. Always put #Ad before any copy. Read industry articles and keep up to date with the content Whalar shares to support our network. We’re here to be as helpful and informative as possible, so if you have any queries or worries, don’t hesitate to contact us at studio@whalar.com.

And remember, creativity will always shine through so don’t let the rules get you down.