The New CMA Rules. AD? GIFTED? SPON?

I’ve been debating writing this post because A/ there’s so much information from way more reliable sources out there and b/ I’m terrified of telling someone the wrong thing and them getting in trouble so before I get into it, let me just make it super clear that this is how I interprit the rules from the CMA and ASA and how I will be declaring them! 

If you’re an influencer or you follow an influencer (for the record, me and ever other “influencer” despise that word) then you probably have already seen or heard about the new rules and how they are pretty darn extensive. I personally am all for being clear with your audience and though I haven’t tried to mislead, perhaps I have by not being 100% clear on gifted items. However, I do think that there becomes a point when it’s all about too much.



So there seems to be a huge grey area when it comes to what is and isn’t an AD. To me and many other’s an AD is simply an ADVERT, the same as an ADVERT on the television, paid product placement or a shoot specifically for a brand, basically someone paid you cold hard cash to put their product in front of your audience. However, over the past few days it seems that this isn’t necessarily the case in everyones eyes, the CMA now ask that you label a variation of different content with AD which include the below.

Paid For Ads
self explanatory!

Promoting Your Own Product On Your Own Channels
Yes, if you have a following and also have your own brands and you share your own brand on your page (not the brands page but your personal page) you must now declare it as an AD because you will be making money based on the post. This one is super hard to navigate and from what I read, so long as you are VERY clear that it is YOUR brand you don’t necessarily have to put ad. But don’t post your own product with a caption like “Monday vibes” this would need the AD tag, if you want to avoid the AD then be clear in your caption that it is your own brand/product.

I don’t fully understand this one because to me, a competition is only an AD if it’s in partnership with a brand, so perhaps this is what they mean? If anyone knows more please feel free to comment and I will update this section!

If you are an ambassador for a brand like I am for Pandora, and you decide to post their jewellery when it isn’t one of your paid for posts (usually as an ambassador you will have for example, 10 posts to do over 6 months) so it’s an additional post you decided to do off of your own back because you genuinely love the brand. It is an AD

If The Brand Has Control
So essentially, if the brand has any form of control over what you post, when you post, how many times you post, what items you have (even if they just send you over a spreadsheet to pick from) what you say or final approval and they have gifted you a product, service or experience, then this is an AD.

Affiliate Marketing
So from what I’ve read on this, it seems that services like Like To Know do not come under this title. Yes they are affiliate marketing but you only need to declare it as an AD essentially if people are going to interact with that post there. So if it’s in your instagram stories and you are doing a swipe up with a link which goes to the LTK page or your affiliate link then yes this is an AD. If you add a discount code which is linked to an affiliate programme, for example use code SINEAD10 and get xxx off at xxx and you personally make 10% commission on any sales made using this discount code, this must be marked as an AD. Basically if you are making money off of the post, the consumer needs to know this before they interact with it.


So another little list, what counts as payment according to the CMA. remember that apart form monetary compensation which is always an AD, these only count as AD’s if the brand has also had control over your posts.

Hotel Stays
Free Product
Monetary Compensation
Services (Free nails, blowdry etc)


So that’s ADs covered. Now lets get onto the much grey-er areas of gifting, services and buying your own products – yes that’s now a thing. The CMA have been pretty clear about how clear they want us to be and they aren’t messing around. Here’s the full lowdown on what you need to disclose, then we’ll talk about how and when.

Loan of Product
Service’s Provided (eg, Manicure, Dental Work)
Incentives & Commissions
Gifted Product


So the main point of the new rules is to make everything super clear for the consumer so that they know when you’re making money and where you stand with things, IE did you shell out £600 of your own money for those balenciagas or did they land on your doorstep? (we all wish) before they decide to make the purchase or interact with the post themselves. So the word clear should be kept in mind when reading all of this!

Don’t Hide It
Lots of people have been saying that the word AD needs to be at the very beginning of the post and I’m not 100% sure on this one. Of course please please correct me if I’m wrong I want to know your take on it too! The way I see it is that you need to put it in the first 2 lines of your caption. If you’re going to write an essay then 100% put it at the start, the reader shoudn’t have to click see more and read your essay and get fully invested in you and your message before realising it’s an AD. Personally I am fully for this and have often thought that this can appear sneaky! On the topic of not hiding it, don’t put it amongst a sea of hashtags.

Don’t Use Ambiguous Words
AD, ADVERT & ADVERTISEMENT are clear and show that you have been paid to promote the product. Don’t use misleading words like SPON, PARTNER or COLLAB or add AD or SPON on the end of your own name, it’s supeer missleading and to be honest, wouldn’t you rather your audience be thankful of your honesty than feel duped because you were being sneaky and trying to bend the rules? Also with gifting, just saying thankyou to the brand isn’t enough, you must state that the item is gifted either next to the name of the brand/item or at the beginning or end of the caption, depending on how long your caption is, remember they shouldn’t have to search out the disclosure. Terms also not acceptable “so happy to be working with”, “thanks so much to”,”made possible by”.


Tagging A Company In The Image
If you tag the company or brand in the image, ie, you’re wearing a H&M jumper and you tag them and the item was gifted to you or you’ve worked with them in the past. This applies to services as well. This covers all brands in the post, you must declare each one prominently & clearly.

Talking About A Company or Service In The Caption
If you talk about the company or brand in the image, and the item or service was gifted to you. This covers all brands in the post, you must declare each one prominently & clearly.

Linking To A Product or Service 
If you’ve been gifted a product or service and you link to it, you must also declare this. It’s the same as the Balenciaga thing, people need to know if you spent your own money on it before they decide if they want to spend theirs.

Past & Present Working Relationships
This one’s the real sticker. If you worked with a brand in the past, but you chose to buy the product with your own cold hard cash, you must still make it clear that you have a working relationship with the brand as you might be biased. This one’s a real shame more for the fact that most of us are lucky to have worked with lots of high street brands with which we have been shopping our entire lives. Take H&M, Net-A-Porter & Topshop. All 3 I have loved and shopped at and would even if I stopped this tomorrow, yet because I have been paid, loaned items or gifted things. I must now declare that I have a working relationship with the brand.

If You Haven’t Tried A Product
I’m hoping none of you would ever promote something you’ve never tried before, I’m assuming this is aimed at the people who promote the detox teas and supplements but if you didn’t try something and you want to promote it, even if you put AD you must also clearly state that you haven’t tried it.


I personally will be adding the terms AD, GIFTED to my posts and where it needs a bit more explaining, ie, the products you’ve bought but have a past working relationship with the brand or have been gifted by the brand, I’ll most likely say AD*(unpaid) and add *with an explanation at the bottom. Yes it’s a ballache, yes I wish it wasn’t so extensive but guys, it’s the law now so please don’t feel that you can get away with it and not get caught with a huge fine. I know its frustrating and especially if you’ve only just started in this industry but please don’t think that just because you’ve only ever been gifted so far or had one post it’s OK, it’s not. Also please don’t be pressured by brands to not add the tags, I personally have had many try to brands pressure me into not adding these tags and you have to stay firm because it is your own name, business and at the end of the day, bank account that will take a hit if you are caught out.

For the most part, I have to admit I will most likely cease to tag brands in my images and instead use Like To Know it for people to shop my outfits. This way people can get direct links, they already know it’s an affiliate app/programme and I don’t have to flood my page with AD unless it genuinely is an AD.


Something I was really interested to see was the fact that the people of instagram fought back and couldn’t understand why it was such an issue for us to simply be more clear about what was paid, gifted and what we paid for ourselves. In my personal opinion, yes, we do need to be clearer on the whole gifting thing but I have never once said that I bought something that I hadn’t bought, I just didn’t even thing to mention it. However, adding the word AD to every caption (and it will be every caption for me as I am a fashion blogger so I am super lucky to have 99% of my wardrobe gifted to me) will surely cause more confusion where you the audience will no longer be able to differentiate between something that is a genuine paid for advertisement, what was gifted and lo and behold, what we bought with our own money but we worked with the brand too.

I would love to hear your guys thoughts on this and if anything I have said is wrong then PLEASE let me know. As I said at the beginning of the post, this is only my take on the new rules! I’d love to hear what you are doing and also if you’re not a blogger or influencer, what do you think about the rules? Are you happy about it or do you think its excessive?


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  1. Candice Sandler
    28th January 2019 / 6:47 pm

    Thanks so much for this! It does share light on this matter

    • Sinead
      29th January 2019 / 2:46 pm

      I’m so glad I could help if only in a small way!

  2. lisaalovess
    28th January 2019 / 10:54 pm

    I understand all the laws and that they have to be followed. I do think they are being quite extensive with it but it will show more transparency . Althought I have noticed some people over doing it and it is so annoying as a follower (in my opinion). Some people might not feel the same as me but for example today, Lydia Millen (on her home account) shared a little snippet of every division of her home on instastories where she told us what she bought or what was gifted, etc. I think that is a bit over the top.. as followers, we just want you guys to be honest when promoting something on instagram, blog, youtube, etc. We don’t expect every one of you to be taking photos of your houses and telling us bit by bit if it was gifted, paid for, or whatever .
    You’ve put it quite clearly here on this post, well done x

    • Sinead
      29th January 2019 / 2:46 pm

      I totally agree! I think it’s hard as we are all in fear of putting a foot wrong so there are a lot of people who are going over the top to make sure that all bases are covered. I think your opinion is very interesting, of course you want us to be clear but going round pointing out everything you got for free I could agree appears annoying and braggy!

    • Sinead
      30th January 2019 / 2:48 pm

      I agree! I think it’s just finding the right balance so that it doesn’t overshadow the content!

    • Sinead
      30th January 2019 / 2:49 pm

      It’s hard to abide by them without overshadowing the content isn’t it? I think with time it will become clearer and we can satisfy everyone!

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