ASAI receive over 100 complaints about Instagram content

Orla Dwyer

Some influencers utilise social media platforms such as Instagram to promote products they are affiliated with.

Over100 complaints were made last year about issues relating to influencer created content across different social media platforms, according to the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI).

Most of these complaints regarded uncertainty over whether material posted by influencers was marketing communications or an advertisement and how clearly this was stated through hashtags and the caption of the post.

“ASAI has been actively engaged in the area of influencer and advertising for over the past three years to ensure that brands and bloggers /influencers are aware of their responsibilities under the advertising standards Code,” Deputy Chief Executive of the ASAI, Michael Lee told The College View.

A number of wellness bloggers and influencers have been making sponsored posts about products such as vitamin and gut-health supplements in Ireland and abroad. There have been few complaints made about influencers and health supplements to the ASAI so far.

Instagram is commonly used by marketing companies and influencers to promote products. A Quintly study from June 2017 analysing 740,000 social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram found that Instagram had the best interaction rate among the three platforms.

According to Statista, 38 per cent of Instagram users worldwide as of 2018 are aged between 13 and 24. This is a key demographic for influencers and companies that advertise using social media.

Section eight of the ASAI Code states: “Marketing communications that contain nutrition or health claims should be supported by documentary evidence substantiating that they meet the conditions of use associated with the relevant claim, as specified in the EU Register.”

This online register shows all of the health and nutrition claims permitted in the EU and the terms and conditions attached.

Kim Kardashian came under scrutiny in May 2018 when she posted a picture of herself on Instagram eating an appetite suppressing lollipop. The company selling the lollipops is banned from advertising on social media in the UK, according to the BBC.

The Advertising Standards Authority in the UK posted in a 2017 decision that the ‘Flat Tummy Tea’ company could not make claims through online influencers that their tea helped with water weight, as some influencers were stating in their sponsored posts.

An example of a permitted nutrition claim under the EU register is that a food claiming to be high in protein is only correct if more than 20 per cent of the energy value provided by the food is from protein.

Section 12 of the ASAI code relates to slimming products used in marketing communications. It states that any claims made about the “effectiveness of a slimming plan, method or product should be backed by reputable and robust practical trials on human subjects”.

It also states that advertisers should be able to show that their diet plans are nutritionally balanced.

According to, ASAI CEO Orla Twomey said the trend of wellness is going to continue because “we do see that trends that start in the States [spread here], apart from medicines, which won’t happen”.

Vox reported in February that Instagram influencers such as Louise Roe have started promoting medication in their posts. Roe was reported as having a paid partnership with Celgene, a biotechnology company that makes psoriasis medication.

However, advertising of medicine in Europe has stricter regulations than in the US where advertisements for prescription medications are permitted and common.

Not all of the complaints sent to the ASAI last year were valid. The ASAI investigates cases where posts are marketing communications in an informal or formal manner. Formal cases are brought to the Independent Complaints Committee for adjudication, the results of which are published on the ASAI website.

Orla Dwyer

Image Credit:Alison Clair