BuzzFeed has broken UK advertising rules for failing to clarify that the article titled 14 Laundry Fails We've All Experienced, was in reality, an advertorial piece paid for, by the dye brand Dylon. This is the first time that BuzzFeed has glitched up with regards to advertorial laws.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received a complaint regarding BuzzFeed's advertorial, which said that it broke the UK advertising code for failing to mention that it was a marketing write-up. The article was a classic BuzzFeed-style listicle that went on to feature pictures and various social media posts describing common and amusing laundry disasters.
It also displayed social media posts from Henkel-owned Dylan's Colour Catcher Facebook page, ending the article with the line: "It's at times like these we are thankful that Dylon Colour Catcher is there to save us from ourselves. You lose, little red sock!"
BuzzFeed has defended its advertising practices by pointing out that a lack of clarity and dearth of ASA rulings in local advertorial matters, had led the company to use the advertising practices of the US as a guideline on how best to label adverts in the UK. The publisher also said that, on the company's homepage, where the article was mostly promoted, it ran with a label "promoted by" that highlighted Dylan's name and logo. The article also added the text "Dylan Brand Publisher" next to any mention of Dylan's Colour Catcher product. BuzzFeed maintained that the labels used clearly differentiated the article's advertorial style from its other editorial content, which usually displays a reporter's name, picture and a byline.
Although the ASA agreed with BuzzFeed on its homepage's labelling strategy, it still maintained that the company had failed to make it "immediately clear" that the article was an advertorial. It also said that since readers could access the article from other social media platforms, labelling only the homepage could not be deemed enough. The watchdog said: "We further noted that the web page was very long and visitors to it would therefore not see the reference to Dylon Colour Catcher at the bottom of the page until they had already engaged with the content."
"The ad must not appear again in its current form", the ASA has said it its final ruling. Both Henkel and BuzzFeed have been warned by the watchdog to ensure that any future advertorials are better labelled, making ads "obviously identifiable as marketing communications".