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15 March 2018

Quiz: Can you really tell when you’re being advertised to?

The Advertising Standards Authority is launching an investigation into whether average people can tell that online ads are ads. Can you? 

By Amelia Tait

If Zoella loves a mascara and no one is there to hear of it, does it really make a sale? 

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is today launching a project investigating whether the average person can really recognise that online ads are ads.

Over the last four years, there has been a crackdown on social media influencers such as YouTubers and Instagrammers advertising products without disclosing that they were paid to do so.

Since 2014, the ASA has required such influencers to disclose their ads with a hashtag (#ad or #spon) to avoid consumer confusion. But how many people actually know what #ad means? Does it matter if the hashtag is in a video’s title, or hidden in the thumbnail?  And what about when influencers flaunt the rules or find loopholes? 

“Social influencer and native advertising might be relatively new but the advertising rules haven’t changed – people shouldn’t have to play the detective to work out if they’re being advertised to,” said ASA’s chief executive Guy Parker. “That means the status of a tweet, blog, vlog, Instagram post or story should be clear.”

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Parker thinks that this new investigation will allow the ASA to gauge the depth of the problem, and help them understand better how to apply their advertising rules. 

It’s a commenable move, and it’s thought-provoking. Just how well can you identify online ads? Take our quiz to find out: