By Josie Clarke, PA Consumer Affairs Correspondent
Instagram posts by household cleaning influencer Mrs Hinch have been banned after she failed to make clear to her followers that she was advertising her own products.
Sophie Hinchliffe, whose Mrs Hinch Instagram account filled with cleaning tips has amassed 4.6 million followers, posted a story on January 7th last year featuring a notebook filled with writing and the text: “If you’re a little mad like me tap here for yours.”
Clicking the link on the story took users to the relevant product page on the Amazon website and the video ended with the front cover of the notebook which stated “Mrs Hinch Life in Lists” while Hinchliffe stated: “In my own notebook of course.”
The post attracted 34 complaints that it was not obviously identifiable as an ad for Hinchliffe’s own notebook.
Hinchliffe confirmed that the notebook was of her own design and was still available to buy in several retailers, but believed it was clear that the post was an ad and that it was her own product that she was promoting.
She said she would be happy to include “ad” within future social media posts that included links to her own products in future.
The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the commercial intent of the post was “ambiguous” and it would have expected it to have included a prominent label identifying it as an ad.
The ASA noted that the line “Mrs Hinch Life in Lists”, and her statement that it was “In my own notebook of course”, only appeared at the end of the ad, concluding: “We considered the ad was not immediately clear as to Ms Hinchliffe’s commercial relationship with the notebook.”
It ruled the ad must not appear again.
In a separate ruling, the ASA also banned another Instagram post from January 27 last year in which Hinchliffe featured heart-shaped bowls of varying sizes and the text: “On a right roll here. Even put some ‘nibbles’ (In my own hinch heart bowls, I love em) #hinchxtesco.”
Viewers again complained that Hinchliffe had not been clear that she was advertising her own product line.
Tesco said it did not have any control over the ads and therefore did not consider them to be from or related to the supermarket.
Both Hinchliffe and Tesco confirmed that Hinchliffe received royalties for the products that formed part of her range but that the ad did not form part of their agreement, which had expired on November 1, 2021.
Hinchliffe said the ad was created “organically” and not as part of any obligation to market the products.
She said the post was similar to her style of content that were not ads, which she created when relaxing or cooking around the home.
As with the first ruling, Hinchliffe said she would include an “ad” label in future when showing products she had designed, and would continue to do so for up to 12 months after the products had been available to buy.
The ASA said: “Whilst that text may have given some indication to consumers that Ms Hinchliffe had been involved in designing the bowls, it was not explicitly made clear, and we considered that it was also not clear that she received royalties from their sale.
“We also understood that the ad was similar in style to non-ad content created by Sophie Hinchliffe who, as a home cleaning influencer, often shared lifestyle tips on Instagram.
“As such, we considered that it needed to be made explicitly clear when content such as this, where she offered advice to her followers, was linked to a commercial deal that benefited her financially.”
It ruled that the ad must not appear again.