Instagram posts by three reality TV stars promoting a debt advice service have been banned after the influencers failed to reveal that they were being paid to advertise the company.
Geordie Shore’s Chloe Ferry, 25, Helen Briggs, also 25, from Ex On The Beach, and Towie’s Myles Barnett, 27, who have more than four million followers between them, did not make it sufficiently clear they were promoting Debt Slayers, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled.
In a post in January this year, Ferry wrote: “If you know someone who is over £5000+ in debt this is a new fully regulated scheme that can help you write off 85 per cent of the debt”, before providing a link to Debt Slayers.
Barnett posted: “One of my friends just got 81 percent of his debt wiped off. So if you’ve got debt above £5,000 – it could be credit cards, catalogues, car finance … a loan, anything like that, swipe up, there’s more information on there … you can wipe off a big, big chunk of your debt.”
Three people complained that the posts were not obviously identifiable as ads, exaggerated the ease with which debts could be reduced, and did not make the risks of taking out an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) – an alternative to bankruptcy – clear.
Ashteck Media, which trades as Debt Slayers, said it had “informal agreements” with Briggs, Barnett and Ferry to produce the relevant Instagram posts.
However, Debt Slayers did not provide a service other than passing on details to a third party.
Ashteck said consumers who contacted Debt Slayers as a result of the posts were made aware of the risks and fees associated with IVAs.
The watchdog banned the ads from appearing in that form again. It also ordered Ashteck and the stars to ensure that future ads were “obviously identifiable as marketing communications”.
Ashteck said it had stopped using social media influencers for promotions.
An agent for Briggs said her future marketing communications would be properly labelled, while the agent for Barnett and Ferry said they accepted that the wording of the posts was potentially in breach of advertising rules.
Barnett and Ferry’s agent said they would not work with debt management companies again.
Upholding the complaints, the ASA said the ads must not appear again in the form complained about.
The ASA said: “We told Ashteck Media to ensure their ads did not exaggerate the speed or ease with which debts could be reduced, that they made risks and fees of IVAs and other debt management services clear, and that they made clear that they passed on inquirers’ details to third parties and did not provide the service themselves.
“We also told Ashteck Media, Helen Briggs, Myles Barnett and Chloe Ferry to ensure that ads were obviously identifiable as marketing communications in future, for example, by including a clear identifier such as ‘#ad’.”