Advertising in social networks: why the FAS punishes bloggers
In self-isolation conditions, when everyone stays at home, promoting on social networks is much more effective than posting your content on billboards or on the radio. But the rules for advertising on social media are less developed, and the practice is often changed - this leads to fines.
Brand profiles on social media
According to the FAS, 12 years ago advertising on the Internet did not exceed 5% of the total volume, and now this figure is close to 50%. It is quite logical that online advertising is attracting more and more attention from regulatory authorities, the FAS and the prosecutor's office have been actively monitoring social networks for several years, identifying violators in Odnoklassniki, VKontakte and Instagram.
An example is the case against a large Russian bank, which posted an advertisement on its Instagram account with the slogan "Young people pay out of tune." The FAS regarded this as the use of prison jargon and a violation of the ban on advertising containing explicit language and offensive images. According to the FAS definition, the post “promotes the popularization of a criminal organization”.
Interestingly, both the bank itself and the company that ran its Instagram page were ordered to remove unethical ads. In this case, the fine of 100 thousand rubles was discharged only to the contractor.
At the same time, in March 2020, the FAS refused to initiate a check against a chain of alcohol stores that promoted their products on the official page in TikTok. Alcohol advertising is prohibited in Russia. But, according to a representative of the FAS, "currently the official pages of companies in social networks are not advertising."
Advertising with bloggers
If the regulatory authorities have been observing advertising on the Internet in general and in social networks in particular for a long time, the first cases of bringing bloggers to justice appeared only in 2019. In 2020, this practice became widespread.
Back in 2018, the FAS held the position that the law "On Advertising" does not apply to YouTube. Then the deputy head of the FAS, Andrei Kashevarov, pointed out that the site is not part of the RuNet and does not fall within the scope of Russian laws.
However, since March 2019, the department has actually changed its attitude towards this resource. Several instructions have already been issued to the owners of the famous YouTube channels. Let's analyze the most interesting cases.
Channel “Varlamov”. FAS found violations in the actions of blogger Ilya Varlamov twice. In one of the videos, he was sitting at a table with a bottle of whiskey and encouraging the audience to rate the drink, and in another, dedicated to Kaliningrad, he talked about gambling tours that Riga casinos arrange for Russians. In both cases, the FAS indicated that advertising of alcohol and gambling was prohibited, and the blogger was its distributor. The legality of the fine for advertising alcohol was confirmed by the court: on September 5, 2019, the arbitration court refused Ilya Varlamov to invalidate the decisions and orders of the FAS issued in relation to the video on the YouTube channel.
Channel "Bar in the Big City". The channel posted a video filmed for the 225th anniversary of the alcohol producer. It showed a rack of alcoholic beverages and talked about "parties for everyone." FAS saw this as a violation of the ban on alcohol advertising and issued an order to remove the content. Interestingly, earlier the FAS punished distributors of advertisements about a party in honor of another alcoholic drink, guided by the same reason.
Channel "Edition". In one of the issues, the authors talk about the successful experience of visiting alcohol stores. The video description contained:
link to the site of this store;
information about discounts;
an exclusive promo code for channel viewers.
To initiate the proceedings, the Moscow OFAS Russia sent requests to the bloggers who posted the video, to the chain of stores and to an advertising agency. The latter's contact, marked "on advertising issues," was indicated in the description of the YouTube channel. There is no official information on the results of this case.
How to reduce risks
From the examples given, it is clear that the following can be brought to justice:
the blogger himself;
We recommend that advertisers: Check all materials that are published on their behalf. It is important to clearly define how much freedom you give hired PR professionals and bloggers who create advertising content. This is especially true if they have direct access to a company account.
Include in contracts provisions a preliminary approval of advertising content and methods of its distribution, as well as a condition regarding the liability for the publication of unapproved posts.
Taking into account how quickly the regulator's approach is changing, follow the FAS practice in order to understand what requirements are now imposed on advertising in social media.
Alina Davletshina, senior lawyer at Deloitte Legal, expert at RIA and RBC Pro