Twitter campaigns can be loud but must be clear

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has recently adjudicated on two cases involving Twitter, specifically in relation to rules around the recognition of marketing communications, which state that they must be “obviously identifiable as such”.

In March, the ASA looked at a series of tweets by Katie Price and Rio Ferdinand promoting Snickers chocolate bars. The tweets, which were out of character to their usual tweets and public personas, ended with a tagline “You’re not you when you’re hungry @snickersUk#hungry#spon” and were accompanied by a photo of each of them holding a Snickers bar. The ASA held that there was no breach of the rules, as the combination of the tweets and the use of “@snickersUK” and “#spon”, made the tweets obviously identifiable as marketing communications.

Whilst the ASA does not set precedents, it appears that it has drawn a line in the sand with regard to recognition of tweets as advertisements. This is highlighted by the adjudication this month against Nike regarding tweets by footballers Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshere. The tweets stated “My resolution – to start the year as a champion, and finish it as a champion…” and included the hashtag “#makeitcount” and the URL”.

The ASA held that the tweets were not “obviously identifiable” as marketing communications and were therefore in breach of the rules: “the Nike reference was not prominent and could be missed, consumers would not have already been aware of Nike’s “#makeitcount” campaign and not all Twitter users would be aware of the footballers’ and their teams’ sponsorship deals with Nike”.

These two cases highlight the small variances that make a big difference to whether a Tweet falls foul of the regulations. To stay on the safe side, any retailers considering these kinds of marketing campaigns should ensure that the hashtags “#spon” or “#ad” are included on Tweets so as to avoid potential action.