Mars given ASA all-clear in Rio Ferdinand Twitter row

By Dan Colombini

- Last updated on GMT

Premiership football star Rio Ferdinand write messages about the Snickers bar on his Twitter page
Premiership football star Rio Ferdinand write messages about the Snickers bar on his Twitter page

Related tags: Marketing, Advertising

Chocolate manufacturer Mars has been given the all-clear from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after the watchdog judged Twitter endorsements from Manchester United footballer Rio Ferdinand and glamour model Kate Price to be “acceptable”.

Mars received criticism from some Twitter users, who complained that five tweets from the celebrities promoting the firm’s popular Snickers bar were misleading. They claimed the messages were “not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication".

But the ASA dismissed the accusations and said the campaign was fair and legal and that the messages did not breach the industry code.

Teasers

 “We noted the first four tweets in each series served as ‘teasers’, which, due to their nature, were likely to generate additional interest in the celebrities’ postings​,” an ASA statement said.

We also noted the tweets did not make any reference to Snickers or to Mars and were posted in relatively quick succession. In addition, we noted that the fifth tweets showed the celebrities with the product​.”

The ASA also said it found the messages to be “part of an orchestrated advertising campaign​”, which was also featured on the Snickers Twitter page.

We considered the combination of those elements was sufficient to make clear the tweets were advertising and that consumers would then understand each series of tweets was a marketing communication​,” the statement concluded.

The ruling, which was the first of its kind, comes after the investigation was launched in January this year. It followed complaints relating to messages sent by Ferdinand and Price, as well as fellow celebrities cricketer Ian Botham and X-Factor star Cher Lloyd.

Despite the stars receiving payment from Mars as part of an official marketing campaign, the comments caused outrage among some Twitter users.

One follower wrote on Ferdinand’s page: “Do you really need money that badly​?”

Use of Twitter

Mars denied any wrong doing and said the campaign involved “an innovative use of Twitter​”. It also claimed to have considered the requirements of the Committee of Advertising Practice Code in detail before it was launched.

The firm believed that its approach was fully compliant with the Code.

Mars said it had considered in detail the extent to which the series of tweets were marketing communications before launching the campaign​,” an ASA statement revealed.

It believed that only the fifth and final tweets were marketing communications and that none of the first four tweets therefore needed to be identified as such​.”

 

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