If you’re an ad, make it clear, Federal Trade Commission warns celebrity Instagrammers

CBC News
Jessica Wong

In recent years, the FTC has sent out warning letters, investigated and even fined firms that have participated in undisclosed influencer marketing, including Lord & Taylor, Cole Haan and Warner Brothers.

This latest initiative stems from petitions filed by Public Citizen, a non-profit democracy advocacy group, and others who have flagged the agency about the growing issue of brands teaming up with social media personalities with huge followings to market their wares to a young audience.

Though the FTC did not release the names of the letter recipients, Public Citizen previously decried the “prominent and ethically egregious violations” of Instagram influencers in an investigation, citing famous faces such as recording artists Rihanna, Zendaya and Pharrell Williams, reality TV personality Kim Kardashian, fashion designer Victoria Beckham, athletes like Serena Williams, Michael Phelps, Michelle Wie, and actors such as Blake Lively, Lucy Hale, Lindsay Lohan and Mark Wahlberg.

“Deceived consumers believe admired celebrities are making genuine, self-directed and enthusiastic endorsements of brands, not realizing that those celebrities are instead paid and may not even use the touted brand,” Public Citizen stated in its September letter to the FTC.

“Consumers, especially young consumers, are being deceived on a vast scale … Advertisers often assert that ‘everyone knows’ that paid endorsements are pervasive in social media, though there is no evidence to support this assertion, particularly among young consumers.”

Kim Kardashian is proof that this increased scrutiny can indeed spark change: the social media maven, who has regularly come under fire for posts that weren’t disclosed as ads, now clearly denotes those that are sponsored.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/ftc-influencers-letters-1.4077345