Advertising board's social media code: here's why it's important for you

17 July 2019 - 05:59 By Unathi Nkanjeni
SA's advertising watchdog has introduced stricter rules for social media ads, especially those where 'influencers' are paid to endorse products.
SA's advertising watchdog has introduced stricter rules for social media ads, especially those where 'influencers' are paid to endorse products.
Image: Panithan Fakseemuang/

The use of social media personalities to sell products has taken off in the Mzansi shores but it's not always smooth as some of our social media faves are still failing to identify their posts as advertising.

Take for instance the recent incident where make-up influencer Kandy Kane (real name Marlize Liebenberg) was reported to the advertising watchdog after not identifying her Volvo posts as advertising.

Her initial post was: "Volvo SA gave me a new car!"

Volvo, whose blue XC40 SUV featured in Kane's posts, told the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) that it was a "partnership agreement" and "is mainly a form of trade exchange which has no financial investment".

Kane's post was later changed and the title of the YouTube video is now: "Volvo CX40: I am an ambassador!"

Kane also added a disclaimer, saying: "This is not a financial paid partnership but a brand agreement whereas I signed a contract to drive this car and in return promote it for Volvo."

Another example is the infamous VW and Drive Dry campaign on drunk-driving awareness when TV personality Nomuzi Mabena faked a car crash in an Instagram post. The post was later taken down and reposted with appropriate tags marking it an ad campaign.

The campaign was met with mixed reactions, with many condemning it, and seems to be exactly the kind of thing ARB is looking to restrict with its new rules for social media ads.

According to ARB, the Social Media Code is aimed at ensuring the protection of consumers and promoting ethical conduct by brand marketers and the influencers they make use of.

ARB said the new social media code of conduct will ensure that all branded content is marked with ‘#ad’, ‘#advertisement’ or ‘#sponsored’, "making it easy for followers to distinguish between branded and organic content".

Here are seven key proposed rules for social media advertising in SA:


  • Social media ads must not contain deceptive, false or misleading content. Messaging should be responsible and authentic.
  • Marketers should pay particular attention to ensuring that paid social media advertising is obviously identifiable as such.
  • A clear social media identifier must be included within the content of the tweet or post, in order to ensure that consumers reasonably understand this to be paid advertising as opposed to an organic social media endorsement.
  • Claims made by an influencer in a post have to comply with the standards of the code of advertising practice and specifically with Clause 10 of Section II
  • To ensure full transparency publishers and influencers must disclose if they were provided (permanently or on loan) with goods or services in return for media coverage (whether this is expressly stated or not).
  • Brands must provide the influencer with the required information for the influencer to endorse the goods/service with sufficient understanding of it.
  • Social media parody accounts should be clearly declared within the account's description or bio. It should clearly indicate that the user is not affiliated with the subject of the account, including, for example, by incorporating a word such as (but not limited to) "parody," "fake," "fan" or "commentary".