Anyone with more than 30,000 social media followers considered a celebrity, advertising watchdog rules

Mike Wright
The sponsored Instagram image the ASA found to be in breach of its celebrity endorsement rules  - Instagram/ThisMamaLife

Anyone with more than 30,000 social media followers is now considered a celebrity and subject to advertising rules, a watchdog has ruled in a landmark case.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found mummy blogger, Sarah Willox Knott, breached its rules when she promoted an over-the-counter sleeping sedative, as the size of her Instagram following classified her as a “celebrity”.

The ruling is the first of its kind where a social media 'influencer' has fallen foul of regulations banning celebrities or health professionals from endorsing medical products.

The Telegraph understands that despite the new precedent, the watchdog will still judge whether posts from smaller social media accounts breech its endorsement rules on a case-by-case basis.

The ruling comes after the blogger posted an image on her ThisMamaLife Instagram account in February of her sat in bed smiling with a packet of Phenergan Night Time Tablets visible in the background.

Sarah Willox Knott, who has garnered more than 30,000 followers on Instagram via her ThisMamaLife blog Credit: Instagram/ThisMamaLife

In the caption Willox Knott wrote that she was a “night owl” who found the tablets, which she described as a “pharmacy only, short term solution to insomnia”, “really helped” when she struggled to get to sleep.

The post was marked as an ad and the company behind it, Sanofi, said it had cleared the promotion with the healthcare trade body, the Proprietary Association of Great Britain, beforehand. 

However, the ASA rejected Sanofi’s arguments that Ms Willox Knott's then 32,000 followers on Instagram did not class her as a celebrity. The company argued that Ms Willox Knott's following was considerably less than that of other “recognised celebrities” on the platform, citing David Beckham who has 55 million followers.

The ASA concluded: “We considered over 30,000 followers indicated that she had the attention of a significant number of people. Given that she was popular with, and had the attention of a large audience, we considered that ThisMamaLife was a celebrity for the purposes of the CAP Code.”

The watchdog also said that Willox Knott, 27, who started blogging about raising her two small children four years ago, had done more than 1,000 sponsored and recommended posts on her Instagram page.

The ASA banned the ad and said Sanofi must not use celebrities or social media influencers again to endorse medicines.
Following the ruling, the Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB), which represents manufacturers of over-the-counter medicines said: “Following today’s ASA ruling, PAGB will be working with the regulators to understand the implications of this decision for member companies and the wider consumer healthcare industry.”