The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is being urged to force social media influencers not to promote “perfectionism” and be clearer about their adverts.
A 50-page application to the ASA has been submitted by Chris Ward, author and former creative director of Comic Relief, urging the advertising watchdog to do more to tackle mental health issues caused by social media advertising.
Next year the retail sector is expected to spend over half of its entire marketing budget on social media advertising as increasing numbers “recognise the value that social media ads bring to their campaigns”, according to research from Smartly.io.
Ward warns that influencers’ idealistic posts promote perfectionism, which causes users to feel unsatisfied that they are not living up to these impossible standards.
The issue, described in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) 2017 report Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders as “an epidemic”, causes users to constantly strive to achieve flawlessness leading to anxiety and depression when they inevitably fail.
In order to provide context to these posts, informing users that these they have been intentionally constructed to portray a ‘perfect’ lifestyle that is largely fictional, Ward argues that all influencer posts should be tagged with #influencer.
“This is in-order to provide critical context to the advertisement,” he said.
“Advertisers should not be allowed to pay influencers to post an #ad where the influencer does not hashtag all their posts on the same account with #influencer.
“At a minimum, these (rules) would apply to all marketing communications targeted at those under 18 but (would be of most) benefit to positive mental health, to all consumers”.
Speaking to The Drum, Ward added: “There’s no context. So they’ve benefited from that ad without actually having to put the context down… a social media influencer is like a magazine, but a young person doesn’t know that… every post should really be tagged.”