The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has set out a warning in the form of a letter to social media stars in an effort to stop the posting of unclear ads on Instagram. The letter, which was sent to 90 celebrities, athletes and other social media stars, urges them to clearly disclose when their post has been sponsored by a brand. The FTC claims that it is often unclear to viewers when something is being sponsored, specially in the case of Instagram hashtags viewed on mobile that are placed at the end of a description. People viewing these posts typically only see the first three lines of a longer post unless they click ‘more,’ which many may not do and never see the #sp or #partner tag. A search on Instagram for the #sp hashtag yielded over 10 million results, with many posts having the hashtag at the end of the description.
The FTC warns that it is important to give viewers essential information so a simple disclosure such as “Company X gave me this product to try . . . .” will usually be effective but also provides a list of guidelines to follow when posting sponsored content. Addition info can be found here
This is the first time the FTC has reached out directly to social media stars but it didn’t disclose the list of people it contacted. However this is not the first time it’s put out a warning as in the case of filing a complaint against Lord & Taylor in 2016, when the company sent and paid 50 fashion influencers to post photos of themselves wearing their dresses or when imposing financial punishment against Warner Bros. which did not force influencers they paid to disclose they were posting paid ads.