Paid Instagram posts acting as personal endorsements have changed the shape of advertising, and the law is trying to keep up.
We're so familiar with sponsored Instagram posts that they've become a bit of a joke: we reference 'selling detox tea' as a punchline, or mention waist-trainers as shorthand for an Instagram account that runs for a profit. Normally, we can tell when post are sponsored from a mile away — but sometimes brands make it difficult, and their paid posts don't register as ads.
That's why, for the first time in six years, the United State's Federal Trade Commission updated their Endorsement Guides. They're making the rules around sponsored social media posts — still a relatively new phenomenon — much clearer, so customers don't confuse paid posts for genuine endorsements. The Guide has become more specific with the addition of a few examples. Say a social media influencer gets paid to review a game before it's released to the public: they can't just say they got "early access" or a "sneak peek," they've now gotta specify they've been paid.
YouTubers have to make things much more obvious too. The FTC calls for a disclaimer "made clearly and prominently in the video itself," not just in the description. For posts on Twitter, the FTC suggests "starting a tweet with 'Ad:' or '#ad'." It's likely that a hashtag buried at the bottom of a lengthy post won't cut it.
As BoF reports, the changes come in the wake of a March FTC settlement with clothing brand Lord & Taylor. The FTC found the label had "paid 50 online fashion 'influencers' to post Instagram pictures of themselves wearing the same paisley dress from the new collection, but failed to disclose they had given each influencer the dress, as well as thousands of dollars, in exchange for their endorsement."
The FTC isn't the only government body coming down on Instagram posts. In August last year, Kim Kardashian had to delete an image endorsing a morning sickness pill after the FDA found it didn't share the risk and side effects of the drug. She later reposted the photo, with four additional paragraphs of risk information added to her caption.