UK Regulator Says ‘Finfluencers’ Can’t Hide Behind Memes for Marketing

The Financial Conduct Authority has instituted clear guidelines for how financial influencers use social media for marketing.

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Whether it’s Pam Beesly holding up two identical photos, Homer Simpson retreating into a hedge, or Kermit the Frog drinking a cup of Lipton tea, promotional-use rules still need to be followed. 

The Financial Conduct Authority, a UK watchdog, is cracking down on financial influencers — or “finfluencers” — who use popular memes as a way to market their products and investments, which in plenty of cases, have turned out to be scams. 

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Social media has become flooded with advertisements for financial services — minutes-long commercials about why you’d be a fool not to buy a finfluencer’s crash course on drop shipping, crypto mining, or the stock market. Occasionally, they might offer some worthwhile nuggets of information, but most come off as too good to be true — and some are downright deceptive. Their ubiquity across the internet only ramped up during the pandemic. 

But even dodgy advertisements take time and money to produce. Now there’s a quicker and cheaper way to get a similar message across: funny memes. But regulators aren’t amused:

  • The FCA’s grievances lie mostly in forum and chatroom-based platforms like Reddit and Telegram, where in 2022, the regulator had about 10,000 misleading ads for financial services removed, many of which dealt with cryptocurrencies.
  • The regulator announced this week that promotions — even in meme form – must be fair, clear, and not misleading. To stamp out further fraudsters, the FCA will require finfluencers to get approval from an FCA-appointed representative to be able to make advertisements and memes about financial products. 

Fair Warning: “Promotions aren’t just about the likes, they’re about the law,” the FCA’s Lucy Castledine said in a statement Tuesday. “We will take action against those touting financial products illegally.”