Do you follow a bunch of big name celebrities on Instagram? There’s a good chance you’ve been exposed to improperly labeled ads.
Mediakix recently evaluated the accounts of the top 50 most followed celebrities on Instagram over a 30-day period and found that the vast majority of ads they posted were in violation of the Federal Trade Commission’s rules.
According to the FTC’s guidelines, all sponsored posts on Instagram must include clear and conspicuous disclosure like #ad or #sponsored near the top of captions, so people viewing the post on a smartphone will see that it’s an ad without having to press the “more” button (see below). Social media stars sometimes use hashtags like #sp or #partner to call out Instagram ads; other times, they’ll just say “Thanks [Brand]” somewhere in the caption. Under the FTC’s rules, these disclosures aren’t sufficient.
Mediakix didn’t name names but found that 30 of the top 50 Instagrammers posted sponsored content, which isn’t a problem if it’s done right. The problem is, just 7 percent of those posts were in compliance with the FTC’s guidelines. The other 93 percent of posts did not include the appropriate verbiage.
“We found that celebrities who post sponsored content may, on average, post 3 FTC compliant posts a year vs. 58 posts that are non-compliant,” the marketing agency wrote.
Mediakix went on to say that these violations “may have profound and far-reaching effects on consumers.” The low compliance rate means that “users are regularly coming across posts that could be interpreted as misleading where the material connection between a brand and a celebrity is ambiguous,” they added.
The FTC last month sent out more than 90 letters reminding Instagram stars and marketers that they need to “clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships to brands when promoting or endorsing products through social media.” That marked the first time the agency had reached out to social media influencers directly about their responsibility to be transparent when posting ads on Instagram.