June 29, 2022
Vape brand Relx and Geordie Shore star Louis Shaw have been rapped by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for promoting the product on Instagram.
The post in contention, an Instagram story by Shaw seen on 20 December 2021, showed a hand holding two boxes of e-cigarettes and offered a discount code LOUISXMAS15, tagging the Relx account.
The agency ruled that the ad must not appear again in the form complained of, upholding a complaint that challenged the ad for not making clear its commercial intent.
The ASA also ruled that the ad breached the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code on another count by promoting unlicensed, nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and their components on Instagram.
“We told Relx (UK) Ltd and Louis Shaw to ensure that marketing communications with the direct or indirect effect of promoting nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and their components that were not licensed medicines should not be made from a public Instagram account in future, unless they had taken steps to ensure they would only be distributed to those following their account and would not be seen by other users,” it said in the ruling.
“We also told them to ensure they made clear the commercial intent of their posts in future, for example by including a clear and prominent identifier such as “#ad.”
In its response, Relx claimed that the Instagram story was user-generated content, designed and posted by Louis Shaw and not shared with or approved by Relx before he posted it.
The brand clarified that the discount code used in the ad was a referral reward that was given to any customer and was given to Shaw to share with his online and offline friends who were existing adult smokers and vapers, adding that the use of the code did not result in any payment or commission from Relx to Shaw.
The ASA, however, noted that the Shaw had a contractual relationship with Relx as an affiliate of the brand and stories posted under that relationship would fall within the remit of the CAP Code.
The agency said the post breached the code’s provision which states that marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such and they must make clear their commercial content if it was not obvious from the context.
As the marketing communications with the direct or indirect effect of promoting nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and their components which are not licensed as medicines are not permitted in online media –along with newspapers, magazines and periodicals and some other forms of electronic media, except for media targeted exclusively to the trade – the agency also found the post in breach of this provision of the Code.
Factual claims about products are only permitted on marketers’ own websites and, in certain circumstances, in other non-paid-for space online under the marketer’s control.
The ASA had previously considered whether Instagram was an online media space where such advertising, using factual claims only, was permitted, but had concluded that neither promotional nor factual content was permitted in the social networking site.