FTC Warns Instagram Celebrities, Influencers Over Post Endorsements

FTC Instagram
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* Federal Trade Commission warns celebs and influencers over sponsored Instagram posts
* Petition filed cited variety of celebrities for failure to disclose sponsored content
* FTC says “material relationships” must be disclosed clearly

Paid celebrity-endorsed advertisements are nothing new, but in the booming social media age, sponsored and paid Instagram posts and YouTube videos are becoming more and more widespread, and consumers are catching on quick. Sponsored posts from influencers and celebrities on social media float in a grey area, in which paid posts featuring sponsored content, can easily be masqueraded as a “genuine” post, making it easy to deceive consumers. Now, it appears the Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on the phony posts.

On Wednesday, the FTC sent out letters to 90 different celebrities, influencers and marketers, firmly reminding them that paid Instagram posts promoting product—whether a product was sent as a free gift or part of a monetarily-paid campaign—are subject to truth-in-advertising guidelines. “If there is a ‘material connection’ between an endorser and the marketer of a product – in other words, a connection that might affect the weight or credibility that consumers give the endorsement – that connection should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed, unless the connection is already clear from the context of the communication containing the endorsement,” the FTC letter says.

The FTC wasn’t vague regarding what counts as disclosure and what does not. The government agency clearly outlined specific examples, addressing a new trend in hash-tagging practices, in which Instagram users deploy methods to conceal paragraphs of hashtags to allure more followers and incite more engagement to their account. “You should disclose any material connection above the “more” button. In addition, where there are multiple tags, hashtags, or links, readers may just skip over them, especially where they appear at the end of a long post,” the letter advises.

The FTC’s cautionary letters come in response to a recent petition filed, regarding the endorsed social media posts, marking the first time in history that the FTC has reached out directly to educate social media influencers themselves. While the names of the recipients of the FTC’s warning weren’t released, the original petition cited specific celebrities and influencers in violation of the FTC guidelines, including the Kardashians, Gigi Hadid, Pharrell, David Beckham and many other Hollywood heavyweights.