LONDON: Brands and bloggers have been warned by the UK advertising regulator that they risk facing sanctions if paid-for content is not made clear to readers.

As a reminder to advertisers and bloggers, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has updated guidance on its website, urging them to be "up-front" with their followers about any financial relationships between them.

It says that if some bloggers falsely present themselves as consumers, then they are not just engaging in a misleading practice but also breaking consumer protection laws.

While emphasising that it does not want bloggers to stop earning money and that it's "perfectly legitimate" for a blogger to accept payment in return for promoting a product or service, the ASA makes it clear that if bloggers are paid to write something positive then it becomes an advertisement and must be disclosed.

It recommends that paid-for posts are flagged with signposts, such as "ad", "advertorial" or "sponsored content" to make them immediately clear to readers.

The ASA says: "The advertising rules, which apply across media, including online, are very clear. Ads must be clearly identifiable as such. Put simply, a blogger who is given money to promote a product or service has to ensure readers are aware they're being advertised to."

While stating that it is not being "bombarded" with complaints, the ASA says it is receiving a "steady stream of enquiries" from bloggers, some of whom have raised concerns about some agencies who have apparently offered them money to advertise on their behalf while encouraging them not to declare their interest.

Data sourced from ASA; additional content by Warc staff