Social media users struggle to identify ads posted by influencers, even when they are labelled as such, says to a new report.

The findings show that clear labelling is more crucial than ever, according to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) which carried out the study.

Current rules mean influencers are technically obliged to disclose any post which had been paid for, or any promotion which includes a “gift” from a brand.

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Both the ASA and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recommend upfront disclosures, such as £ad, and emphasise that consumers should not have to work hard to find this information.

The watchdog spent 18 months reviewing public understanding around social media ads to gauge whether its regulation was effective, and has concluded that more clarity is needed.

ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: "The research tells us that all of us can find it hard to identify when an influencer is advertising, so it's crucial that ads are labelled clearly.

"Our message to influencers and brands couldn't be clearer: be upfront with followers."

In September 2018, new guidelines were published for influencers and celebrities advertising on social media.

They clarified what the ASA considers to be an ad, how to disclose that a post is an advert, what the CMA’s requirements are and what happens if someone complains to the ASA about a post on social media.

At the time, director of the Committee of Advertising Practice Shahriar Coupal said: “Responsible influencer marketing involves being upfront and clear with the audience, so people are not confused or misled and know when they’re being advertised to.

"The relationship between influencers and their followers relies on trust and authenticity, so transparency is in the interests of all parties."

It is illegal to hide the fact that a social media post has been paid for, and recently a number of celebrities and high-profile influencers have found themselves subject to ASA action over the labelling of their posts in the past, including Made In Chelsea stars Louise Thompson and Millie Mackintosh, and Geordie Shore cast member Marnie Simpson.

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