Molly-Mae Hague breaks advertising code for Instagram giveaway

Popular Love Island star Molly-Mae Hague broke advertising codes last year after running a competition on social media, the official watchdog has ruled. 

The influencer was subject to backlash after she entered just 25 of the two million names that took part in the competition into a random generator to find a winner.

This is Money pointed out at the time that the rules around such competitions didn’t appear to have been met. 

As such, the Advertising Standards Authority received a dozen complaints about the Instagram giveaway and it is likely its ruling will be a warning shot to other influencers looking to gain followers this way

Molly-Mae has now been found in breach of the Advertising Code for her online competition

While the winner took home £8,000 worth of Louis Vuitton, Apple and beauty products, many complained the method of choosing said winner was unfair.

The body says she was not compliant with the rules as she could not supply evidence that proved the prize was awarded in accordance with the laws of chance or under the supervision of an independent person.

The complainants wrote to the ASA believing that not all entrants were included in the ‘final draw’ and so did not have an equal chance of winning.

They challenged whether the prize was awarded in accordance with the laws of chance and whether it was administered fairly.

To enter, those looking to win had to like her Instagram post and tag a friend, subscribe to her YouTube page and follow her and her tanning brand on Instagram.

For an extra entry, followers had to share her initial post to their Instagram story for a bonus entry. All of this gave more publicity to her account. 

Many influencers use giveaways like this to gain more followers with Molly-Mae gaining around half a million extra followers as a direct result of the competition.

What did Molly-Mae say? 

Molly-Mae told the ASA the post did not provide an incentive to engage with a brand or a product, therefore she believed it was not a promotion and would not fall under the scope of the Code.

She added she had instructed a member of her management team to pick a group of participants that could be publicly seen to be following her profiles. 

These were all manually selected out of a hat at random.

This was done due to the high number of entrants which meant it would be difficult and time consuming to use computer software.

Each of the 100 participants shortlisted were manually checked to verify they had followed all profiles and had completed each step of the competition requirements – if they hadn’t, they were replaced with a different individual.

From that group of 100 randomly selected entries, the profiles were listed and assigned a number and the independent person used a Google number picker which chose the winner.

Molly-Mae said she did not have any part in selecting either the first batch of randomly selected profiles, number assignment or finally picking the winner and the person who oversaw the selection of a winner was not from the management team, the brand or in any way connected to this promotion.

She added the response to the promotion was overwhelming and unexpected and believed she had dealt with it in the best possible way considering how many people had entered.

The competition said entrants could win a number of items including Louis Vuitton luggage

The competition said entrants could win a number of items including Louis Vuitton luggage

What did the ASA decide? 

The ASA disputed some of these claims and said it had not seen evidence to show the eventual winner was selected randomly using computer software.

From Molly-Mae’s response, she said the full competition requirements had only been applied to the selected group of 100 entries.

At the same time, an Instagram Story from her account after the promotion’s closing date stated a smaller shortlisted group of 25 was entered into a computer programme to determine the winner, saying all those selected had entered more than once.

The ASA said it was concerned by the inconsistencies in the information provided. 

It said because entrants had to sign up to Molly-Mae’s YouTube channel, follow her Instagram account and the account of her tanning brand, it meant the post concerned a promotion in the form of a prize draw, which fell under the scope of the Code. 

It concluded the promotion was not administered fairly and therefore breached the code.

The ASA has now told Molly-Mae to ensure her future promotions are administered fairly and that prizes are awarded to genuine winners in accordance with the laws of chance and by an independent person or under the supervision of an independent.

This is Money contacted Molly-Mae’s representative but received no response.

Molly-Mae first came to prominence when she featured on ITV's hit series, Love Island, in 2019

Molly-Mae first came to prominence when she featured on ITV’s hit series, Love Island, in 2019

What do the experts say? 

Jeremy Stern, chief executive of PromoVeritas, promotional compliance experts, said: ‘Today’s announcement that Molly-Mae broke the rules with regards to the operation of a prize draw run on her social media channels, is no surprise.

‘However, it should act as a reminder to all – influencers and the brands backing them – that as well as considering the message, influencers also need to think carefully about how they run the promotions they promote via their social media channels. 

‘There is a skill to conducting a truly fair and random, and picking one winner from just 100 entries does not fit with the rules. In addition, there was no evidence that the prize was awarded by an independent person or under the supervision of an independent person.’

Jeremy said this is a ‘vital’ step that is too often ignored but, by doing so, is a reassurance that all is fair and good. 

He added: ‘It is time influencers of any size or experience, their agents and the brands that support them, realise there are rules and that following them is not that hard.’

One suggestion is a simple agreement is put in place that will clarify how to communicate the paid for nature of the post and the ways in which the promotion should be conducted: fairly, randomly, with clear terms and with independent supervision. 

‘It’s not rocket science, but it is so important for the trust of the consumer and to keep the industry clear of even worse laws. Molly-Mae acted without considering the consequences and would be advised to talk to a promotions expert before she runs her next giveaway.’

It is now almost two years since the CMA issued their guidance notes on making sure that social media posts and endorsements by influencers stay compliant with UK consumer protection laws.

It follows an investigation by the CMA that led to 16 major influencers including Rita Ora, Ellie Goulding, Alexa Chung and Michelle Keegan, signing formal commitments to disclose that they have been paid or incentivised to endorse a brand.

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