Insights Committees of Advertising Practice publish advice note on using user-generated content in marketing communications.

Essentially, CAP reminds readers that adopting and incorporating user-generated content into marketing communications means that the CAP Code will apply in full.

User-generated content (UGC) is content, such as social media posts, tweets, photos, reviews and blogs/vlogs, created by private individuals and published on a website or on social media.

The scope of the CAP Code covers marketing communications by or from companies, organisations or sole traders on their own websites, or in other non-paid-for space online under their control.  Consequently, unprompted UGC, where a customer initiates the communication by tweeting to a business’s handle or posting to its timeline, is outside the remit of the CAP Code.

There are instances, however, in which the ASA considers that UGC is “by or from companies, organisations or sole traders” and is therefore subject to the CAP Code.  Most commonly this will occur when content is “adopted and incorporated” into a marketer’s own marketing communications, for example, if the marketer requests content from users and then places that content on their social media channel.  However, “adopting and incorporating” can also include retweeting, commenting on, or even simply “liking” a user’s post.

Marketers should not seek to use UGC as a method of circumnavigating responsibility under the CAP Code, CAP says.  If a marketer posts on social media and solicits content that is likely to breach the CAP Code, the ASA is likely to consider the resulting UGC within its remit, for example, a car manufacturer requesting that users share content about a time they drove too fast.

Where UGC is within remit, the CAP Code applies in full and marketers will need to make sure that the content is responsible and not misleading, harmful or offensive.  So, if the UGC contains an efficacy claim, the substantiation rules will apply or if it relates to alcohol, the alcohol rules will apply.

However, CAP says, marketers should note that the above does not prevent them from implementing a “reasonable moderation policy”.  However, where a moderation policy has the effect of curating UGC to remove any content that is negative for the marketer, the ASA is likely to consider that the UGC has been “adopted and incorporated”. For example, if a marketer’s website allows users to submit ratings and reviews, but only publishes positive reviews, it is likely that the ASA would regard this as excessive moderation and those reviews would be subject to the CAP Code.  To read CAP’s advice note in full, click here.