South African ‘influencers’ have to mark all sponsored posts as adverts: watchdog

The Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) has ruled that South African influencers must indicate that a social media post is an advert, even if they were not directly paid for the promotion.

This follows a complaint lodged against an Instagram post and Youtube video by a South African influencer in which she showed off a new Volvo car.

Volvo argued that its partnership agreement with the influencer was mainly a form of trade exchange which has no financial investment.

It added that it does not give any of the influencers it partners with financial investment but rather a form of trade exchange for them to drive the cars for a duration.

In exchange, influencers get to share their experience with the cars on their social media platforms.


The ARB said that this is a ‘new and important issue’ and that clear guidance should be given for future cases.

In this case, it pointed to the Code of Advertising Practice which states that ‘advertisers are required to disclose if content is part of a social media advertising campaign as opposed to purely organic social media’.

The ARB said that recognised social media identifiers include:

  • #AD
  • #Advertisement
  • #Sponsored

“To ensure full transparency publishers and influencers are required to disclose if they were provided (permanently or on loan) with goods or services in return for media coverage (whether this is expressly stated or not),” the ARB said.

“This helps reinforce publisher or influencer integrity while clearly allowing the consumer to make an informed opinion of the applicable content, product or service.”

The ARB said that because Volvo elected to update the posts to indicate they were advertisements prior to the hearing, no further action would be taken.

However, it cautioned that any other posts which breach the code will require the advertising to be withdrawn or amended.

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South African ‘influencers’ have to mark all sponsored posts as adverts: watchdog