FTC Warns Celebrities–Tell Your Fans You’re Being Sponsored!
Summary: The FTC has issued warnings to social media influencers and big brands to make their sponsored posts clearer in the future.
Anyone who has Instagram has seen celebrities touting weight loss teas, waist trainers, and that weird push-up bra that doesn’t have any straps. While those posts are annoying, they seem harmless, but are they actually breaking the law? To a discerning eye, they are clearly advertisements, masked as fun pictures, but to impressionable youth, they are endorsements from their favorite stars, young and old. So what’s the solution to these ambiguous sponsored pictures?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued stern warnings to almost 45 social media influencers, which include Chrissy Teigen, Kourtney Kardashian, and Zendaya, as well as numerous brands. The government organization said that these celebrities and companies must now disclose when stars are paid to endorse products on Instagram. According to WWD, the letters were meant to “educate” those involved about the organization’s disclosure policy.
“The FTC’s Endorsement Guides state that if there is a ‘material connection’ between the 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. Material connections could consist of a business or family relationship, monetary payment, or the provision of free products to the endorser,” the letter stated.
Instagram models have been shilling products on their accounts for quite some time, but after the disastrous Fyre Festival in late April, the practice has come under fire with the public. To recap, the Fyre Festival was billed as a luxury musical festival in the Bahamas, and the two weekend event cost approximately $ 1,000 to $ 250,000 to attend. Event organizers paid hundreds of social media influencers such as Hailey Baldwin, Emily Ratajkowski, Bella Hadid, and Kendall Jenner; and those models flooded Instagram with beautiful exotic images of the island and what festival-goers were supposed to get for their high price tag.
However, Fyre attendees were met with a completely different scenario. Upon arrival, they saw rabid dogs, FEMA-like tents, and no models in sight. Celebrity attorney Mark Geragos filed a class-action seeking lawsuit days after the disastrous opening day, and in his complaint, he mentioned how the influencers were involved with the fraudulent advertising by partaking in pictures that they were paid to post but did not disclose that fact to their millions of fans.
WWD reported that the FTC reprimanded the influencers and brands a month ago, and the publication had recently obtained the list of those who were contacted. After the letter was sent out, more models began to include hashtags such as #ad to let fans know that the picture was sponsored, or they removed their offending posts. The FTC wrote in its letter that each sponsored post must be clearly identified from now on.
The FTC further elaborated that if the celebrity was merely stating their preference for a product, which was purchased on their own, then they were free to do so without having to include an “ad” mention.
The following is the list of people and brands who were sent letters by the FTC, according to WWD:
Social Media Influencer
Akon (Aliaune Damala Badara Thiam)
Jamie Lynn Spears
Maci Bookout McKinney
Letter recipient (Brand)
Aihui Ong, CEO of EdgiLife Media Inc.
Albert Bitton, cofounder of The Clean Program Corp.
Alex Gorsky, chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson
Alexander Mechetin, CEO of JSC Synergy Group
Andy Benson, vice president of CytoSport Inc.
Anthony Fletcher, CEO of Nature Delivered
Brant Cryder, president of Yves Saint Laurent North America
Brian Driscoll, CEO of Diamond Foods Inc.
Brian Goldner, CEO of Hasbro Inc.
Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen Inc.
Dana Gordon, CEO of Dana Rebecca Designs
Daniel and Michael Broukhim, cofounders of FabFitFun
David Sultineau, CEO of Kendo Brands Inc.
Dominik Richter, CEO of Hello Fresh AG
Ferit Rahvanci, manager of Pinner USA Inc.
Hal Kravitz, CEO of Aquahydrate
Hugh McGuire, CEO of Glanbia Performance Nutrition Inc.
Ian Danney, owner of Optimum EFX Formulations LLC
Jack Ross, chairman, CEO of Synergy CHC Corp.
Jake Munday, co-owner and director of Pearly Whites Australia
James Hill, founder of Hairburst Limited
Jana Toohey, president of ToGoSpa LLC
Jay Piccola, president and GM of Puma North America
Jeremy Joseph, president and general counsel of Buscemi
Joede Grant, owner of J Gran Enterprise LLC
John Galantic, president and chief operating officer of Chanel USA
John Nosek, president of Kao USA
Joshua Koudelka, owner of Understated Leather
Josie Maran, founder and chief empowerment officer of Josie Maran Cosmetics
Kate Voegele, We The Dreamers LLC
Leyla Milani-Khoshbin, Khosh Milani Enterprises
Maria Hatzistefanis, CEO of Rodial Limited
Mark King, president of Adidas NA
Michael Katz, owner of Matisse Footwear
Nigel Travis, CEO of Dunkin’ Brands Group
Riccardo Pozzoli, co-founder of Chiara Ferragni Collection
Richelieu Dennis, CEO of Sundial Brands LLC
Rilwan Hassan, IO Moonwalkers Inc.
Samira Asemanfar and Melody Godfred, Fred and Far
Sherry Jhawar, director of Smooth Strategies of Eos Products LLC
Thomas L. Millner, CEO of Cabela’s
Tim McMeekan, CEO of Lorac Cosmetics
Tracey Sameyah, CEO of Lancer Skin Care LLC
Walker Williams, CEO of Teespring Inc.
Whitney Tingle, CEO of Sakara Life