CAP – Making responsible ads like clockwork – marketing on TikTok

The ASA/CAP have released a post called: Making responsible ads like clockwork – marketing on TikTok. I have enclosed the text of the link below, but please have a look at the ASA/CAP site as there are lots of things of interest to anyone with an interest in Ethical Marketing.

A video-sharing social networking app with in-built video editing tools and a clever algorithm for surfacing relevant content to users, TikTok was launched in the UK in August 2018.  According to YouGov, it is currently the 7th most popular (and 4th most famous) social media platform, and it offers a variety of creative and innovative ways to advertise – as they, themselves, say ‘don’t make ads, make TikToks’. 

As the rules in the CAP Code are largely media neutral – from in-feed sponsored ads, influencer marketing and TikToks from brand-owned creators, to branded hashtag challenges and effects – the same rules and principles that apply in other media are equally applicable to advertising on TikTok. 

But creating compliant advertising TikToks really can run like clockwork – so here are some of the key principles from ASA rulings to help you with your ads on this platform.

Make clear when a TikTok is an ad

As is true for all the other social media platforms, and indeed all media, advertising on TikTok – whether it’s a ‘Top View’ ad when the app is first opened, a branded effect, a TikTok posted by a brand or influencer, or affiliate marketing content – must be obviously identifiable as advertising. 

Most ads within TikTok’s own ad formats seem likely to be recognised as advertising from the context and labelling applied by TikTok.  Similarly, TikToks that have obviously come from a brand profile are generally likely to be recognised as advertising without any additional labelling, provided it’s clearly the brand’s own profile.

However, the ASA’s research on labelling influencer marketing found that people really struggle to identify when social media posts by influencers are ads.  This means that TikToks uploaded by influencers (and others) which either are, or contain, advertising or affiliate marketing, are very likely to need an additional label to distinguish them. 

For example, a TikTok from Emily Canham promoting GHD branded products and including a personalised discount code was judged not to have made it sufficiently clear because there was nothing in the content that made clear to those viewing it that it was an ad.  This case also highlights that the ASA is likely to view ‘added value’ posts, particularly those sharing the same hallmarks and characteristics as ‘contracted’ posts, as part of the same agreement – and therefore subject to the same labelling requirements. 

If it’s not otherwise clear we recommend, as a minimum, that influencer and affiliate marketing related TikToks include a prominent ‘Ad’ label upfront in the content or accompanying caption.  The label mustn’t be hidden or obscured by anything (remember that the captions appear differently in the app than they do in the browser version) and it should not be easily overlooked, too small or the colour too similar to the background – the rules require advertising to be ‘obviously identifiable’, so if your label isn’t clear then your TikTok is unlikely to be obviously identifiable as an ad.  

For more detailed guidance on the principles here, see the ‘Influencers’ guide to making clear that ads are ads’. 

Make sure you capture the right audience

Targeting is important, particularly for certain types of content and for advertising of certain products like HFSS foods.  The ASA will always expect you to use all of the tools available to target appropriately on any platform and to ensure that you have taken all reasonable steps to avoid your ads being seen by someone who, for example due to their age, shouldn’t. 

It is not usually sufficient to rely on self-reported age and you should also take into account the type of content that the ad appears in or around.  Also, as many social media ads can be (and usually are) targeted at a defined set of users, the ASA does not consider an argument that less than 25% of a total platform audience is under-age to be relevant, and expects marketers to be taking all reasonable steps to exclude under-age consumers from the targeted audience.

Always use a CAP Code lens on your advertising content

There are plenty of general and sector-specific rules and prohibitions that apply to different ads and products and these apply equally on TikTok.  Ads should not, amongst other things, materially mislead consumers or cause serious or widespread offence.  Also, ads for foods, drinks or supplements need to make sure any claims are in line with the rules in Section 15.  The same rules apply to both brand marketing and influencer marketing.

If you’re running a competition or prize draw on TikTok, make sure you include the most significant terms and conditions that apply, include a link to the full terms and follow the other rules in Section 8.


For more on influencer marketing generally visit to find all of our influencer marketing resources.  Our Copy Advice team are also on hand to provide bespoke advice on any non-broadcast ads.


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