This week, the U.K.'s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found that four influencer posts from earlier this year promoting the Swedish deferred payment company Klarna promoted irresponsible consumer behavior — specifically, spending money in order to cheer up amid Covid-19 lockdowns.
According to a ruling published to the regulator's website, Stella Creasy MP flagged Instagram posts sponsored by Klarna and shared by Bradley Harper (@bradders_21), Claire Menary (@clairemenary), Aisha Master (@masteramas) and Yasmin Fatollahy (@homeatheathfield) in April and May 2020 to the ASA, labeling them "irresponsible," as they linked spending money unnecessarily with "[helping] people lift their low mood" in a pandemic.
In response to the ASA's issue, Klarna argued that "the four ads complied with the CAP Code and were not irresponsible, and said the key theme was to take care of one's self during the Covid-19 lockdown period;" as well as that the posts "did not infer that using Klarna lightened one's mood." The company also said that the call-to-action on three of those four posts led consumers to enter a product giveaway, not to spend money using the "buy now, pay later" service.
In its assessment of the situation, the ASA wrote: "We acknowledged that purchasing non-essential items was likely to be a source of comfort for some people during the national lockdown. However, each ad promoted the use of Klarna's deferred payment services, and we considered that the respective influencers had linked buying beauty or clothing products through this service with enhancing their mood during an uncertain and challenging period, when many people were experiencing difficult circumstances and isolation during the lockdown, including financial concerns and mental health problems."
The ASA also found that some of the language used in the influencer posts in question — particularly as it pertained to using Klarna's service to "splurge" on products and maintain certain beauty regimens — not only encouraged spending money on non-essentials, but "also explicitly linked this with helping to lift one's mood at the time."
The watchdog concluded that the four posts at the center of this issue "must not appear again in its current form" and that, moving forward, ads commissioned by Klarna and posted by Harper, Menary, Master and Fatollahy "must not irresponsibly encourage the use of Klarna's deferred payment service, particularly by linking it with lifting or boosting mood."
You can read the full complaint here.