A regional daily has been rapped by the advertising watchdog over an online article about ‘Black Friday’ which it said confused editorial with advertising.
The Echo had claimed the article, which has since been removed from its site, constituted an editorial piece, saying Black Friday deals were of interest to readers, but the ASA ruled it was an advert.
Reach plc says it has since changed its procedures in response to the ruling.
The article in question included links to Currys PC World products, and an unnamed complainant told the ASA they believed the piece was an advertisement for the firm.
DSG Retail, representing Currys PC World, said in response the links were connected to a partner in their affiliate programme who would have managed any commercial relationship with the Echo, adding it did not have any control over the commercial aspect or the content.
Reach, on behalf of the Echo, claimed it had been an editorial piece and was not produced as part of a paid arrangement between themselves and DSG Retail, who also had no control over the editorial content.
The publisher explained there was an arrangement with a third-party affiliate marketer whereby if someone clicked a link to a third-party website in an article that the affiliate provided, and subsequently a purchase was made, Reach would make a commission based on that sale.
Reach believed Black Friday deals were of interest to readers of the website and, along with many other news outlets, they reported extensively on various deals as part of their editorial content.
While it focused on Currys PC World, it was not requested by, commissioned by, or endorsed by Currys PC World or the brands in the article, nor did they seek or gain their permission to run the article.
As a result of the complaint Reach had reviewed its practices and policies to ensure that editorial articles which incorporated affiliate links, as opposed to hyperlinks to further information and related articles, were appropriately labelled.
The article had been removed from the Echo’s website and Reach was reviewing other content to ensure the same measures were applied where appropriate.
The ASA found its Committee of Advertising Practice Code states that marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such.
Although the article included some general information about Black Friday, the watchdog considered the content was otherwise wholly concerned with the affiliate linked products and was therefore an ad for the purposes of the CAP Code, under which the commercial nature of that content should have been made clear prior to consumer engagement.
It also noted that the article appeared among other editorial content on the Liverpool Echo, an established regional news provider, and it was therefore implied that the content, unless it was sufficiently distinguished as such, was entirely editorial.
The ASA welcomed Liverpool Echo’s assurance that the article had been removed and that other content with affiliate links were under review, but found that because the marketing communication had not made clear its commercial intent it had breached the Code.
A Reach spokeswoman said: “We acknowledge the ASA’s ruling and have implemented procedures and policies to ensure we comply with it.”
The full adjudication can be read here.