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5 Reasons Why Influencers Need to Bin the Term “Gifted”.

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What does gifted mean on Instagram?

The term “gifted” is often used by influencers to disclose a product that has been sent to them by a brand’s PR team. It means that the influencer did not receive any money and that they were “paid” with the product only. Sometimes the influencer will be under an obligation to post about said product, sometimes they won’t.

The use of the term “gifted” is widespread on Instagram but I think that needs to change. In fact, the term “gifted” is one of my biggest gripes on Instagram.

PR teams do not send “gifts” to influencers out of the goodness of their hearts, these items are payments in kind. Even if sent with “no obligation”, they are obviously sent with the hopes that you decide to feature them.

Here are 5 reasons why I think that bloggers and influencers need to remove this term from their vocabulary.

Please note that this post is for your reference only and is not a form of legal advice. This is based on guidance available in the UK and not in any other jurisdiction.

The term “gifted” is not approved by the ASA

First and foremost, influencers should stop using the term gifted because it’s not a term that’s recognised by the ASA as a legitimate means of disclosure.

Who are the ASA?

The ASA is the Advertising Standards Authority and they are the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media, including influencer content on social media.

They first released guidance on how influencers should disclose their paid work on social media way back in 2016 and since then there have been many complaints from influencers about how unclear the guidance is.

As a result, the ASA published a clarification in early 2020 in a more digestible format to make it easier to understand.

Read the ASA’s updated guidance here.

In this guidance, the ASA states that terms such as “ad”, “advert”, “advertising” or “advertisement” would be sufficient for declaring where there is some sort of payment and the brand has some element of control over the content.

It’s important to note that “payment” includes items that have been “gifted” by brands and does not just mean money.

They then go on to specifically state that “gifted” is a risky term and they do not recommend its use. That, to me, is a clear enough message that the term gifted should not be used.

Where the guidance is less clear is in relation to completely unsolicited products. Many will try to argue that as they are blogging without obligation, any content featuring those products isn’t an ad and doesn’t need to be declared as such.

This is somewhat true. If there is no “editorial control”, i.e. no obligation, then the content isn’t regulated by the ASA.

However, it does fall within the remit of other advertising and marketing regulators, such as the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA). They too state that any payments in kind should be declared and that “ad” is a useful term whilst “thanks to” or “in collaboration with” are not.

It’s true that the CMA have made no specific comment either way on the term “gifted” but it’s my belief that this term sits closer to “thanks to” and the like and therefore should be avoided.

Read the CMA’s advice on disclosure here.

It’s also pretty clear that “ad” is considered an acceptable qualifier by all authorities whenever there is any sort of brand relationship. So, if in doubt, why not just use ad? It’s not hard, it’s a two-letter word.

I totally understand that from an influencer’s perspective, it seems important to distinguish between what content they have been paid to create, what they were under an obligation to post about and what was sent to them with no obligation whatsoever.

Knowing first-hand the vast difference in what happens behind the scenes in those three scenarios means I find the lack of distinction frustrating too.

However, the fundamental aim of the UK’s advertising and marketing bodies is simply to avoid misleading consumers and they seem to think that the easier way to do that is to use “ad” so we’ll have to roll with it.

There are further qualifiers that influencers can use to try and explain the nature of the brand relationship though, which I go into at the end of this post.

Read my in-depth guide to disclosure on Instagram here. If you find the ASA/CMA guidance difficult to digest then I break it down very clearly and simply here!

It’s… not a gift?

These so-called “gifts” for influencers simply aren’t gifts at all.

To my mind, a gift is something that someone receives on their birthday or on Christmas day. These gifts are usually from your loved ones and come with no strings attached.

This is not at all the same as a product sent to an influencer by a brand in an attempt to market the product. Even if products are sent with no formal obligation it’s quite likely that if the brand knew that you would 100% not post about it that they would not be sending you that product. It’s

In fact, Lexico.com, powered by the same team who publish the Oxford English Dictionaries, state that a gift is: “A thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present“.

As discussed above, these products received from brands are considered “payment” by the ASA and therefore they are not gifts.

Yeah, I’m that petty person that got the dictionary out to prove a point.

You’ll seem more professional

It’s quite a common complaint by influencers that a large number of people don’t take their jobs seriously and think that they are simply freeloaders who make a living by posting selfies.

As an “influencer” myself, I find this incredibly frustrating and feel that it does many influencers and incredible creators a huge disservice.

One thing that we, as influencers, can do to change that is to educate people about the ins and outs of the work we do and change the terminology that we use to describe it.

If you don’t want people to think that all you do is post a few pictures and get showered with gifts, stop calling them gifts.

I truly believe that a simple shift from the term “gifted” to “PR product” can have a huge effect on how people perceive the work of influencers.

In using this term I think that followers will begin to develop an understanding of the business relationship behind each one of those PR products and gain an appreciation of the job involved.

I also definitely think it’s worth explicitly explaining how you work with brands and how you disclose those relationship to your followers so that you’re all on the same page. Some things that seem obvious to influencers may not be obvious to your followers.

The word “gifted” may be making your followers jealous

When I asked my followers how they felt about the term “gifted”, quite a number said that it gave them feelings of FOMO and jealousy. I’ve seen other influencers poll their followers and find the same. How horrible is that?

Social media can be a toxic place and many people develop mental health issues as a result of comparing themselves to strangers on the internet. I’d hate to think that in using a term like “gifted”, which makes light of the work involved in being an influencer, I could be contributing to that toxicity.

Instead, a phrase like “PR Product” makes it clear that the item forms part of a business relationship and that there is work going on behind the scenes. Suddenly it seems a lot less desirable.

Those “gifts” are taxable

Wait, what?

Yeah…

Sorry to break it to you but those gifts not only seen as “payment” by the ASA but also the tax man. Now I’m not a tax expert or an accountant so please seek advice from a professional in relation to this.

My understanding is that benefits in kind or payments in kind are a non-cash payment and considered part of your income. “Gifted” products would fall into this category and therefore should be declared to the tax man each year.

If my article thus far hadn’t convinced you that the term “gifted” needs to be removed from an influencer’s vocabulary then I hope this point does. Anything tax-related is pretty much the opposite of a gift.

For a really easy-to-understand, digestible guide, check out Karaccounts’ free guide to tax and gifted products.

Click here for advice on benefits in kind from the Citizens Advice Bureau.

So what can I use instead?

Instead of referring to something as a “gift”, I prefer to use the term “PR Product”. This makes it clear that it came from a PR team and makes it seem more business-like. It helps explain that it is part of a marketing strategy and not just someone being nice to you.

However, in terms of disclosing the product in question, the label “PR Product” would be insufficient. As already mentioned, the recommended method of disclosing is simply using the word “ad” or similar.

Unfortunately, this means that there would be no distinction between content you had been paid to create and content you had been sent out of the blue but decided to post about and this makes some influencers feel uncomfortable.

Lots of influencers have therefore started using labels to disclose that include both “ad” and some other signifier as to what the nature of the relationship is.

Terms that may be helpful include:
AD – Paid Partnership
AD – PR Product
AD – Press Event / PR Invite
AD – Press Trip
AD – Review Copy
AD – Affiliate

Some people use the term “AD gifted”. If you’ve been wondering what does ad gifted mean, it’s usually an influencer’s way of disclosing a product that was sent to them but no monetary payment was received by them.

Although this does include the “AD” signifier, which is all you need, I disagree with this approach for all of the reasons already discussed.

NB. This is how I choose to disclose but you should make your own judgement as to what you think is appropriate in your own circumstances.

Now read my in-depth guide to disclosure on Instagram here. If you find the ASA/CMA guidance difficult to digest then I break it down very clearly and simply here!

I hope this post was somewhat helpful in explaining some of the details around disclosing PR products.

If you found this post helpful, please support me with a small contribution on Ko-Fi. This information was provided free of charge but is invaluable to bloggers and influencers and I’d really appreciate your support!

Have I convinced you that the term “gifted” is inappropriate and should cease to be used? I’d love to get your thoughts in the comments below!

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Lorraine

Tuesday 7th of September 2021

Wow thank you for this article

Paul

Thursday 10th of June 2021

Looking at influencers so I found this really interesting, thank you! Paul @ www.southwesthampers

Laura

Thursday 10th of June 2021

No problem, Paul! You may also find this post about disclosure generally useful: https://whatshotblog.com/asa-influencer-guidelines-disclosure-instagram/.

Kayshali_

Monday 24th of May 2021

Loved this article ! Really cleared up my doubts about the word 'gifted'.

JohnGregory Turner

Tuesday 24th of November 2020

I am so glad that you posted this! Your evaluation of the matter is dead on. There needs to be more honesty in this business and you are surely on the frontier.