PS12009 - ICA: investigation initiated against BAT and some influencers for hidden advertising
According to the Authority Stefano De Martino, Cecilia Rodriguez and Stefano Sala spread posts inviting followers to publish content with tags and hashtags linked to the advertising campaign of the Glo Hyper product
The Italian Competition Authority continues its fight against forms of hidden advertising on social media by opening new proceedings against BAT Italia S.p.A. and the influencers Stefano De Martino, Cecilia Rodriguez and Stefano Sala.
The Authority contests the spread of posts on the Instagram profile of these influencers that are bound by a commercial relationship with BAT Italia S.p.A.. These posts contain an invitation to followers to publish content with tags and hashtags linked to the advertising campaign of the Glo Hyper product, a device for heated tobacco produced and marketed by the company. The exhortation by De Martino, Rodriguez and Sala seemingly aims at multiplying the posts on Instagram that refer to the Glo Hyper brand, in order to promote the visibility of the device in line with the commercial relationship binding the influencers to the trademark owner. However, the commercial nature of the advertising effect obtained by the professionals – and deriving from the brand tags and hashtags - is not recognisable because no graphic or textual warnings identifying its promotional purpose are present. On Thursday 27 May inspections were carried out at the Bat headquarters with the help of the Special Antitrust Unit of the Italian Finance Police.
The intervention is part of a line of investigation that, following the evolutions of marketing techniques adopted on social media, aims to hit seemingly neutral and disinterested communications but which are in reality instrumental to promoting a product and, as such, able to influence consumer choices
The Authority has repeatedly pointed out - in previous investigations and moral suasion interventions relating to various forms of hidden advertising on social media - that advertising must be clearly recognisable and has established that the general ban of hidden advertising has a general scope and therefore must also be applied to communications disseminated by influencers through social networks.
Rome, 31 May 2021