Even the savviest consumers can sometimes get fooled by all the brand new marketing strategies, but these new Instagram rules are about to help us wise up.
According to Bloomberg, the Federal Trade Commission is about to crack down on the way celebs present sponsored products on their Instagram pages. The way it is now, some famous folks will ad the hashtags #ad, #spon, or #sponsored, but it’s not always super obvious to viewers, especially if these tags are buried at the end of a long list of other superfluous hashtags.
The FTC plans to crack down on the advertisers, not the celebs themselves by requiring disclosures at the beginning of the post or spoken verbally in videos.
Michael Ostheimer,a deputy in the FTC’s Ad Practices Division told Bloomberg, “We’ve been interested in deceptive endorsements for decades and this is a new way in which they are appearing,” he said.
“We believe consumers put stock in endorsements and we want to make sure they are not being deceived.”
The controversy comes from viewers’ perceptions of the ads. The FTC is worried that the celebs’ followers can’t tell what is a paid advertisement and what is an authentic opinion about a product. This creates a deceptive atmosphere for consumers, and can lead to fraudulent practices.
The flip side to this comes from the advertisers themselves. From their point of view, this is just the natural next step in marketing, and consumers are savvy enough to sort out the sponsored ads from the rest. Lauren Diamond Kushner, a partner at Kettle, a creative agency in New York told Bloomberg that she doesn’t see the big deal.
She says, “I don’t know if I even think of it as an ad. They [celebrities] say, ‘I’ll do this piece and I’m going to do it my way.’ Whereas if I’m scrolling in my Facebook feed and I see a big thing from H&M or whatever, that is an ad.'” She compares it to product placement in television and movies.
Of course the FTC disagrees and is getting the word out to advertisers via webinars and conferences. Osthemeir says,
“We hope by bringing these cases that we not only stop the marketer and influencer who didn’t have adequate disclosures previously, but also get the message out that other companies should have clear and conspicuous disclosures.”
Let this be a lesson to all social media users and consumers alike: buyer beware. The product that your fave Instagram star is selling might not really be her new “obsession.”