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A TOWIE Tweet Too Far!

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Tweets made by Gemma Collins of The Only Way Is Essex fame have landed a hair salon in hot water. The reality TV star posted two messages on Twitter earlier this year after visiting Toni & Guy’s salon at Lakeside shopping centre. A complaint was made to the Advertising Standards Committee (ASA) that the tweets were marketing communications and should therefore have been identified as advertising.

According to Toni & Guy, as Collins was pleased with the service they provided, they suggested she tweet about it. Collins asked whether she should mention a discount and the salon agreed that she should. Collins subsequently tweeted about how happy she was with the service and referred to a 10% discount to be used by others when booking.

Toni and Guy told the ASA that the tweets had been compiled by Collins on the spur of the moment and were not part of any formal advertising campaign. The salon argued that as the tweets referred to a discount it was clear that they were marketing communications.

The ASA disagreed with the salon and said that, in the absence of #ad, the tweets were not obviously identifiable as Toni and Guy marketing communications and were therefore in breach of the CAP Code (the code of practice that seeks to ensure that adverts are not misleading).

This is the second time the ASA has clamped down on promotional tweets by celebrities in recent weeks. Nike was the first when the ASA banned a twitter campaign following tweets by footballers Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshire which mentioned a Nike strapline. As with the tweets by Gemma Collins, the ASA said there was nothing obvious in the tweets by Rooney and Wilshire to indicate they were marketing communications, such as #ad.

The ASA has published guidance on how to ensure that tweets can be recognised as advertising by consumers, which suggests that advertisers use #ad or #spon to make it clear. The guidance also confirms that the style, content and context must make it obvious that it is advertising. So, if you are intending to use twitter as method of advertising, make sure that your tweets are clearly identified as marketing communications otherwise you could face the wrath of the ASA. In my opinion, it is best to err on the side of caution and, if in doubt, add #ad or #spon to your tweets.