Truth in Advertising, Inc., tries to light a fire under the Commission
We know how devoted our readership is; surely most of you remember our post from July 18, 2017, titled “Celebrity Influencers Continue to Flout FTC Disclosure Rules,” right? Yes?
Well, fine then.
Because we write not only to inform you but to amuse and delight you, we won’t simply recycle that old headline for this new article. Which, if the folks at Truth in Advertising, Inc., (TINA) are to be believed, would be entirely appropriate.
Here’s a refresher: In July 2017, we posted about the failure of a number of celeb influencers to make any sort of change to their ad design or text in response to warning letters sent out in April of that year by the Federal Trade Commission.
Remember 2017? The halcyon days of the influencer, who roamed free-range to and fro across the social media landscape without a care in the world? The lexicon of troublesome advertising tactics and omissions committed by influencers was just coming to the public’s attention: undisclosed material relationships between the celebrity and the brand, ad notifications placed “below the fold” of a social media post or missing altogether.
Surely a stern reminder from the Commission snapped these influencers to attention?
Not so much.
At the time, public interest organizations were already hectoring the FTC to take action against celebrities who seemed happy to ignore the warnings altogether. But according to TINA, the FTC has taken a page out of the influencer book and ignored the requests of the organizations. And TINA ain’t havin’ it.
TINA sent its own letter to the Commission in early March, taking it to task for failing to curb the alleged celebrity misbehavior. “It has now been almost two years since the FTC initially notified these influencers of their obligation to refrain from actively deceiving their social media followers,” the letter states. “Yet all but one of them have continued to mislead their fan base … by refusing to consistently and appropriately disclose their material connections to the brands they are promoting.”
(If you’re wondering about the identity of the one compliant individual, it’s Lindsay Lohan. However, Lohan seems to have deleted her social media accounts several times in recent years, so her compliance may be unrelated to the oversight of the FTC.)
All told, TINA claims it discovered “more than 1,400 examples [of violations] across … 20 influencers collectively promoting more than 500 companies.” (Check out its influencer database for more detail.) The letter singles out Sofia Vergara, Ciara and Scott Disick for detailed treatment, and was cc’d to an additional 16 celebrities including JWOWW, Naomi Campbell and Lisa Rinna. Of course, as the FTC itself found out when it sent its letters, influencers sometimes promote products just because they happen to like them and not because they are getting paid, so there could be less to TINA’s complaint than meets the eye. We’ll let you know if and when the FTC responds.