Our friendly self-regulatory body in the advertising world – the Better Business Bureau’s National Advertising Division (NAD) – flat-tired* a sneaker brand this week for its sponsored posts on editorial publishers’ social media accounts. NAD said the disclosure “Sponsored” was not enough for consumers to recognize the posts as ads versus editorial content and recommended a change in the advertiser’s disclosure practices.

The sneaker brand paid to amplify the posts on three popular publisher accounts, which often feature editorial content about fashion, travel and life. The posts were drafted in an editorial way and contained affiliate links, which led NAD to label them as “advertising.” And here’s the nuance: NAD says – in these editorial social media feeds – the “Sponsored” label was not enough to avoid consumer confusion as to who the sponsor was: the sneaker brand or the publisher. As we know, many publishers issue unbiased lists of product reviews, and sometimes those lists contain affiliate links that pay out to the publisher. In essence, NAD concluded that the sneaker brand was its own paid endorser and should have more clearly disclosed that material connection to avoid consumer confusion.

We doubt #SponsoredReally is enough, but perhaps something like #PaidAd would avoid blurred lines. The takeaway here is to consider the context: Amplified ads in editorial social media feeds may require enhanced endorsement disclosures by brands to avoid challenge. Read more about how to comply with the FTC’s 2023 updates to its Endorsements and Testimonials Guides here.

*Midwest colloquialism alert: This is what we called it when that kid in line behind you squashed the back of your shoe.