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UK advertising watchdog flags 2 reality stars for trivializing digital asset investment

The U.K. Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has upheld a complaint against the Instagram ads by two British celebrities over digital assets for falling short of the regulator’s standards. Eve and Jessica Gale, ex-contestants of the reality show “Love Island,” posted Instagram stories promoting investment in digital assets to their over 1 million followers.

The ASA flagged the ads on the grounds of “trivializing investments in digital currency” and for being misleading and irresponsible.

Last June, the sisters accepted a brief to promote the investment skill of a girl they called “Elizabeth,” urging their followers to make contact with her. The text accompanying the ad read that “it’s basically a super quick, ‘easy way of making extra money from your phone.”

The advertising regulator noted the ads were in gross violation of the U.K. Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion, and Direct Marketing. The ASA added they failed to mention the risks and taxes associated with such investment was improper.

“In the absence of any other information to the contrary, we considered that consumers would interpret the overall impression from the ads to mean that investment in crypto assets was simple and risk-free, even to those consumers who had only limited knowledge of crypto assets,” read the ASA’s verdict.

The sisters were warned that they could not post ads in violation of the ASA’s rules, but the warning does not preclude them from posting virtual currency ads in the future.

In their defense, the Gale twins believed that the inclusion of the words “A.D.” by their management was a sufficient warning and that they did not urge individuals to invest directly in digital assets but to reach out to an “expert.” They conceded that they were unaware of the ASA guidelines and would stick to the rules in subsequent ads of a similar nature.

The regulator’s crackdown

Since the start of the year, the ASA has been on a streak of issuing warnings to digital asset service providers over the nature of their ads. The regulator banned ads from seven firms, including Papa John’s Pizza, Coinbase (NASDAQ: COIN), Kraken, Luno, and Coinburb, amongst others.

Arsenal F.C.’s adverts involving Fan Tokens with Chiliz were banned for including no warnings on the risks associated with virtual currencies. While the ASA has adopted a proactive stance in exercising control over the industry, pundits worry that its actions can be described as “regulation through the backdoor.”

Meanwhile, in Asia, Thailand’s Securities and Exchange Commission has amended its advertising rules, imposing strict requirements for firms to report details of ads, including collaboration with celebrities and the amounts involved in running the ads.

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