Love Island star Molly-Mae Hague has had an Instagram post banned for breaching advertising rules.
The social media influencer, a runner-up in the 2019 series of the hit ITV dating show, has had a complaint upheld against her by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for not being identifiable as marketing.
Hague – who has 3.6 million followers – is one of several stars to be warned over social media advertising.
In January 2019, celebrities including Ellie Goulding, Rita Ora, Michelle Keegan, Alexa Chung and Mille Mackintosh agreed to change the way they label their posts.
In July 2019, the ASA joined forces with ITV to offer a “survival kit” to help Love Island contestants adhere to rules surrounding social media and advertising after leaving the famous TV villa.
Hague was a runner-up on the show with boxer Tommy Fury, who she is still in a relationship with, last summer.
In a photo posted on her @mollymaehague account on 26 September, Hague wore a coat by online fashion brand Pretty Little Thing (PLT) and captioned the image: “A/W, I’m ready.”
The TV personality is a brand ambassador for the retailer, which was tagged in the picture, the ASA said.
According to the ASA, Pretty Little Thing confirmed that “in accordance with her contract, any advertising services for PLT had to be obviously identifiable to the customer” and that any posts “made under their commercial relationship” should be tagged as a “paid partnership with prettylittlething”.
However, the retailer said this particular post was “organic” and not part of their contractual agreement, with Hague putting it out without their prior knowledge simply because she liked the outfit.
Examples of similar “organic” feed posts created by Hague, which PLT said were posted prior to their contractual agreement, were provided, the ASA said.
“Hague, via her agent, reiterated that the post was not an ad but an organic feed post and she had tagged @prettylittlething in the post as she was wearing one of their products,” the ASA said in its ruling.
The ASA said PLT did not provide a copy of its commercial contract with Hague.
Upholding the complaint, which was made by one person, the ASA said Hague had identified herself as a PLT ambassador in her Instagram bio and therefore some followers would be aware of the commercial relationship.
However, it said text in an Instagram bio “was of limited effectiveness in disclosing that posts were advertising”.
In its ruling, the ASA said it “did not consider the content of the post made clear whether it was advertising, as opposed to, for example, genuinely independent editorial content.
“Therefore in the absence of a clear identifier, such as “#ad”, we concluded that the post was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication.”
It ruled that the post was an “ad” and “must not appear in the form complained of”, adding: “We told Prettylittlething.com Ltd and Molly-Mae Hague to ensure that their ads were obviously identifiable as marketing communications, for example by including a clear and prominent identifier such as #ad.”
A spokesman for PLT said in a statement to Sky News: “PLT is aware of the ASA guidelines and strives to ensure all its influencer ads comply with ASA guidelines.
“In this instance, the post made my Molly-Mae was an organic, unpaid post in which Molly tagged PLT in the image. PLT and Molly will continue working together to ensure the ‘paid partnership’ tag is used, where relevant, in all further posts.”
A representative for Hague said they did not want to comment on the ruling.
Love Island returns with its first winter series, set in South Africa, on Sunday.
Presenter Caroline Flack has been replaced by new host Laura Whitmore after being charged with assault in December.
Flack, 40, has pleaded not guilty and is due to stand trial in March.