Ad Standards has published a short how-to guide on disclosing advertising content to help advertisers and influencers comply with section 2.7 (distinguishable advertising) of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) Code of Ethics (the "Code"). 

Section 2.7 of the Code states that "advertising shall be clearly distinguishable as such". Seems simple enough in principle, but the meaning of "clearly distinguishable" is not always obvious in practice and may be open to differences in interpretation. 

The how-to guide acknowledges that such differences are particularly likely to arise in the realm of social media and influencer advertising, in which advertising content may be disseminated via personal or commercial / branded accounts and in varying forms including traditional "posts" or temporary "stories" (or a combination of both), and in which the commercial nature of the arrangement between influencer and brand owner may not always be obvious, blurring the lines between advertising and user generated content. 

There is also a (perhaps obvious) point of tension in the social media context, where the creative (e.g. brand owner or influencer) is typically seeking to create a look and feel that is as seamless and uncluttered as possible, an engaging end-user experience without unnecessary disclosures that may detract from the aesthetic and brand perception they're seeking to achieve, and will therefore naturally prefer to adopt a minimalist approach when it comes to distinguishing their content from user generated content. Influencers may argue that social media users are (or should be) sophisticated enough to infer that their content is advertising with only minimal, or shorthand, disclosures. Or they may not wish to acknowledge that their post is a form of advertising at all. Their legal advisers, if consulted, may disagree, particularly taking into account updated guidance in the AANA Code of Ethics Practice Note ("Practice Note"), which clarifies that influencers and advertisers have a positive obligation to disclose any arrangement with brand owners in order to help consumers distinguish between advertising content and user generated content. 

The new how-to guide from Ad Standards helps to resolve this ambiguity. 

To clearly indicate that a post is part of an arrangement with a brand, the key tips are:

1. Use a recognised and distinctive hash-tag (such as #Ad, #PaidPromotion, #sponsored or #CommercialPartnership). Note: although not expressly mentioned in the how-to guide, the Practice Note cautions against alternatives such as "#sp", "Spon", "gifted", "Affiliate", "Collab", "thanks to…" or merely mentioning the brand name.

2. Write the disclosure in the caption.

3. Say it (if the content is in audio or audio-visual form - though in these cases it is also advised to add a disclosure in written form in case users do not have audio switched on).

4. Use the platform's capabilities (e.g. tools enabling content creators to add a label "Paid Partnership with...") to help audiences quickly identify sponsored content.

The how-to guide also clarifies that disclosures should be made not only where money changes hands – free products or services indicate a relationship that should be disclosed too - and if unsure of the nature of your relationship with an influencer or brand, it is best to err on the side of caution and disclose the arrangement, whatever it is.