ASA Decision Regarding Use Of Filters In Social Media Advertising

Recently the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (“ASA”) issued a decision regarding paid influencers’ use of post-production techniques (such as in-camera filters or Photoshop) that embellish an advertised product’s effectiveness or appearance (with or without the intention to do so).   The decision has broad reach to domestic advertisers, as it highlights certain tenets of U.S. advertising law. In the case, blogger Rosie Connolly promoted Rimmel Foundation by posting a photo of herself using the make-up on social media.  The photo was filtered and altered via Photoshop and included statements about Rimmel Foundation’s effectiveness, such as, “ultra-light and flawless coverage” and “stunning finish”.  The complaint stated that people may purchase Rimmel Foundation based on Ms. Connolly’s posts, thinking they would achieve the same results if they use the product.  However, since the images were altered, this would likely not be the case.

The ASA upheld the complaint, holding that the use of post-production techniques that exaggerate the effects of an advertised product could mislead consumers.  The Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines on endorsement and testimonials already prohibit influencers from making claims about products that the advertiser could not make itself.

What does this mean for advertisers? Based on this ASA decision and existing guidance in the U.S., advertisers should likely prohibit use of filters and other post-production techniques if the use of those techniques could impact a viewer’s understanding of how a product or service will work.