Rio Ferdinand and Qatar Tourism rapped by ad watchdog for Instagram post because #ad was not “prominently displayed”

ASA ruling against Rio Ferdinand and Visit Qatar is a warning to brands that #ad is not enough as Visit Qatar falls foul of placement issues.

Footballer Rio Ferdinand has once again been rapped by the UK’s advertising watchdog for posts on social media, this time with an Instagram post for Qatar Tourism – because the #ad tag was not clearly displayed.

The post at the end of last year – promoting Qatar Tourism’s Visit Qatar website – attracted the attention of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after it received a complaint that it was not obviously identifiable as marketing.

Despite the post containing the recognisable #ad moniker, the ad watchdog took issue after observing that “the label appeared at the end of the caption at the bottom of a list of hashtags” – and banned the post from appearing again.

#ad not visible on mobile

The Instagram post featured a video promoting the Visit Qatar website, with the caption “Time spent eating my bodyweight in the kitchen! That’s a wrap for Qatar, been great filming behind the scenes and meeting so many locals!”.

Underneath Ferdinand added “#VisitQatar” and below that “#ad”, but viewers watching the post on a mobile device couldn’t see them without clicking a “more” button.

Ferdinand’s representative said they believed all guidelines had been followed with the presence of #ad, stating they used the label because Instagram had advised them to do so in the past.

But Qatar Tourism conceded that #ad was not prominent enough and that they had liaised with Ferdinand’s representative to amend the post to make the label clearer.

A roll call of hashtags

The watchdog slammed the post, despite it including #ad, stating that “the label appeared at the end of the caption at the bottom of a list of hashtags”.

It concluded that the positioning wasn’t sufficiently prominent to make it clear to users that the post was an ad – reinforcing that mobile users would not have seen the hashtag without clicking a button for “more”. “Because the ad did not make clear upfront its commercial intent, we concluded it was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication”, it said.