TikTok and Instagram posts by Laura Whitmore for a gin and vodka brand have been banned for being inappropriately targeted, implying that alcohol can increase confidence and not being clearly marked as adverts.
The ads for The Muff Liquor Company, seen in July, featured Whitmore drinking peppermint tea, and then water, beer and “Muff & tonic”, while her dancing became increasingly energetic.
Music in the background included the lyrics: “I’ll be f***** up if you can’t be right here.”
A complainant, who understood that Whitmore was an investor in The Muff Liquor Company, challenged whether the ads were obviously identifiable as marketing communications and were inappropriately targeted because they featured alcoholic drinks.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigated whether the ads encouraged irresponsible drinking because they implied that alcohol could enhance confidence and was capable of changing mood.
The Muff Liquor Company said it asked Whitmore to remove the ads within 24 hours of being made aware of the complaint.
They said 2.7% of Whitmore’s 1.6 million social media followers were under 18 years of age, and therefore understood that the product had not been inappropriately targeted to under-18s.
Since receiving notification of the complaint, they had agreed with Whitmore that future ads for The Muff Liquor Company would be reviewed by the company before being posted.
Whitmore told the ASA that the hashtag “#muffboss” was used to declare her shareholder status and believed that “#ad” would not have been a suitable disclaimer because she was not paid by The Muff Liquor Company for the posts.
TikTok said Whitmore had not used its branded content disclosure tool, even though the post appeared to fall into this category.
Instagram said it had no comment on the investigation.
The ASA said the posts should have been clearly marked as ads.
It noted that Whitmore was the former presenter of the television programme Love Island – the fifth most-watched programme by those aged four to 15 years old in the second quarter of 2022. As a result, a large proportion of individuals who were under 18 with TikTok accounts were likely to interact with content related to Love Island on the platform.
“Even if those individuals did not follow Ms Whitmore, we considered it was likely that the algorithm would determine Ms Whitmore’s posts to be of interest to them, meaning they would appear in their ‘For You’ page,” the ASA said.
Referring to Whitmore’s dancing while drinking alcohol, the ASA added: “Whilst we acknowledged that the ads were presented in a light-hearted tone, nonetheless we considered that consumers would interpret the ads to mean that drinking alcohol could precipitate a change in an individual’s behaviour and could enhance an individual’s confidence.”
The ASA ruled that the ads must not appear again.