Today, we’ve published some new guidance that applies principles and positions established by the ASA on rules 2.1 and 2.3 (recognition of marketing communications), to help give clarity on how online affiliate marketing in different scenarios, if not otherwise clear from the context, can be made obviously identifiable. 

What do we mean by online affiliate marketing? In short, it’s a type of performance-based marketing where an affiliate places ads and/or links etc. that direct consumers to a company website. This process functions as a kind of virtual sales team with the affiliate being paid only on commission for the sales that result from the click throughs. Importantly, the CAP Code applies to affiliate marketing, including when it appears on an affiliate’s own website and social media

Consumers need to know that what they’re looking at is advertising and that means making sure it’s clear before consumers engage with it.  Sometimes the context alone will make it clear (e.g. banner ads, ‘cashback’ websites or branded emails/websites), but sometimes the content might need to work a little harder to make it obvious by, for example, including some timely labelling. 

This is often the case in social media, vlogs, blogs, news sites and voucher sites.  While the wider context and overall presentation might make it clear, individuals who primarily create non-commercial content or websites that give an overall impression of independence might need to take extra steps to highlight content that is advertising. 

The new guidance provides some suggestions tailored to different platforms to give affiliate marketers some inspiration, but the key principles to bear in mind are;

  • Where a piece of content wholly relates to affiliated products, it needs to be clear that the whole piece is advertising and it may be necessary to use an identifier (like ‘Ad’ or similar) in the title;
  • If only some of the links and content are related to affiliated products, it’s those aspects that need to be highlighted as advertising by, for example, labelling the relevant links/sections;

The guidance also reminds businesses that allowing their affiliates free rein over the content and targeting of ads does not absolve them of the responsibility for ensuring that marketing communications, that they ultimately reap the benefits of, comply with the advertising rules.

If you’re an affiliate marketer or a brand that uses affiliate marketers, you can get up to speed with the new guidance here. 

If you have any questions or need some bespoke guidance, contact the Copy Advice team.

More on

  • Jonathan McLellan

    Jonathan McLellan

    Online Marketing Exec
    Email |

  • Keep up to date

    Sign up to our rulings and newsletters. Register now