This April, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent 90 letters to influencers and brands who violate disclosure guidelines by failing to clearly distinguish sponsored from unsponsored posts. Naomi Campbell, Sofia Vergara, Lucy Hale, Kourtney Kardashian, and Vanessa Hudgens were among those to receive the reminders of what makes for a rule-abiding post.
While the FTC news made it clear there’s a transparency problem on Instagram, it didn’t reveal how egregious the violations are.
Turns out, things are far worse than expected. Influencer marketing agency Mediakix spent a month studying posts from Instagram’s top 50 celebrities to see well they fared. The findings, first picked up by BuzzFeed, show that only 7% of sponsored posts complied with FTC guidelines. This means that a startling 93% do not. Of the 58 sponsored posts a celebrity might share over the course of a year, only three fit within the parameters of an acceptable post.
According to the FTC, it isn't enough for a celebrity to denote a sponsored post with "a disclosure like 'sp,' 'Thanks [Brand],' or '#partner.'" Disclosures need to be more clear, with labels such as #sponsored or #ad appearing early on in the caption.
Mediakix's study also shed some light on the kinds of sponsored posts that appear on your Instagram feed. Almost 50% of celebrity sponsorships come from long-term partners and the overwhelming majority of social media advertising dollars are coming from the fashion industry.
The problem isn't that sponsored posts are appearing on Instagram, which has become a prominent business platform (Mediakix reports that influencer marketing on the app is a $1 billion industry). It's that celebrities are undermining the most basic foundations of truthful advertising and knowingly deceiving their fans. If you're getting paid to flaunt those heels, tell your audience upfront. It's that simple.
If a celeb is worried they'll lose followers by doing so, maybe they shouldn't be accepting the sponsorship deal in the first place.