The FTC has taken a big step in cracking down on celebrities doing shady Instagram ads by sending a new set of warning letters to 21 celebrities that require them to respond.
Some celebrity Instagram ads are obvious and easy to identify, but there are many that are confusing or unclear. And a lot of celebrities and influencers don’t properly disclose their #sponsored posts. A report on the top 50 most popular celebrities showed that 93% of the ads they did were not properly disclosed.
According to the FTC’s guidelines, you’re supposed to disclose an ad if you have a “material connection” to a product or brand. That means you’re not only supposed to say #ad if it was a very straightforward thing where you were paid to post about a product, but also if you were given a free gift (like clothes or a free private jet ride), or if you have a big endorsement deal with a brand, like Rihanna and Puma, or Kendall Jenner being the “face” of Esteé Lauder. Nebulous hashtags like #partner or just tagging the sponsor aren’t considered proper disclosures.
In March, the FTC sent “educational” letters to a 43 celebrities/influencers as well as brands, reminding them of the rules that they have to disclose if their posts are ads.
In the past, the FTC has only gone after against brands, not celebrities, for undisclosed social media ads. The “educational” letters to celebs were a new tactic, but they were still a step away from a real enforcement action, and the FTC said in the March letter that they were not attempting to verify if posts in question were ads or not. These new warning letters sent on September 6 are a step further, and now the FTC wants the celebrities to officially respond to the letters.
The FTC did not have any additional comment on these letters.
For example, the letter the FTC sent to Ciara about a photo of sneakers she posted on Instagram on May 8 reads [emphasis added]:
You posted a picture of three pairs of baby shoes and you…