New EU Study Shows Influencers ‘Rarely’ Disclose Ads

eu european commission influencers study ad disclosures advertising influencer marketing law
Marina Demeshko/Shutterstock, symbiot/Shutterstock, Remix by Caterina Cox

A new study by the European Commission found that only one in five influencers systemically disclose when they’re advertising in their social media posts. As part of their influencer ads “sweep,” the Commission analyzed the posts of 576 influencers published on major social media platforms to see if they were following EU consumer law.

The “sweep” revealed that 97% of influencers published posts with commercial content. But only 20% of them “systematically” disclosed that these posts were ads.

While 78% of influencers were “exercising a commercial activity,” only 36% were registered as “sole traders.” This means a large fraction of influencers posting ads who should have been registered as freelance business operators under their tax documents weren’t.

30% of influencers surveyed also didn’t disclose company details in their branded posts. A further 38% also failed to use platform labels like the “paid partnership” ads toggle to disclose commercial content. 

Instead, influencers seemed to deliberately opt for alternative wording for ads like “collaboration” and “partnership.”

“With the sprawling development of social media platforms, the influencer scene has become a full-fledged business,” Didier Reynders, Commissioner for Justice, said in a statement.

“Today, most influencers get revenues from their posts. However, our findings show that they do not always disclose it to their followers,” Reynders continued. “Influencers hold considerable sway over their followers, many of which are minors. I call on them to be much more transparent to their audience.”

As a result of the sweep, 358 influencers were earmarked for further investigation.

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