In February, the National Advertising Division (NAD) took action against Fit Tea and the Kardashians for their failure in disclosing that their social media posts regarding the product were, in fact, paid advertisements. The NAD stated that disclosure is critical because consumers cannot differentiate whether the Kardashians are promoting the product because they genuinely enjoy it, or if they are paid to post about the product.
Then, in April, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued over 90 letters to celebrities, athletes, influencers, and marketers (“endorsers”). The FTC Endorsement Guide stipulates that endorsers and marketers are required to plainly disclose any “material connections” (i.e. monetary payments, family or business relationships, provision of free products) between the endorser and the brand.
While they didn’t conduct their own investigation, the FTC did reference the fact that many endorsers violate the Endorsement Guide by opting to disclose their relationship with the brand amongst a jumble of hashtags, in comments, or putting the disclosure at the end of a long post—basically, where most consumers are least likely to see it. Additionally, some endorsers use ambiguous language that fails to imply paid endorsement, such as “Thanks [Brand name]!”
Regardless of whether you received a letter, the general takeaways that all endorsers and influencers should keep in mind are:
1. Be explicit with your disclosures.
2. Disclosures should be located where they cannot be missed.
3. Don’t try to hide your disclosures in a “hashtag jumble.”