By now anyone familiar with Influencer Marketing knows that the FTC is trying to put their stamp on a very dynamic industry and marketing practice. Late April 2017, the FTC issued a stern warning to approximately 90 Instagram Influencers. Celebrities made up the majority of the list who were targeted and contacted by the FTC. For the record brands were also warned.
The FTC claims:
“The FTC’s Endorsement Guides provide that if there is a “material connection” between an endorser and an advertiser – in other words, a connection that might affect the weight or credibility that consumers give the endorsement – that connection should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed, unless it is already clear from the context of the communication. A material connection could be a business or family relationship, monetary payment, or the gift of a free product. Importantly, the Endorsement Guides apply to both marketers and endorsers.
Reading through the FAQ for Endorsements is comical in some circumstances. https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftcs-endorsement-guides-what-people-are-asking
This is why Influencer Marketing is in its infancy stage and will only increase in popularity. In my opinion Influencer Marketing will become the number 1 choice for digital marketers for the foreseeable future. Think for a second when you are watching your favorite television show and a Cover Girl commercial comes on. Is there a disclaimer telling you that Sofia Vergara was paid to participate in the commercial? Does someone need to tell you are being advertised to? For those insomniacs out there, does anyone need to really tell you the late night workout video is a sponsored paid infomercial? Yes commercials are a lot more obvious given that they run at a certain time (either during your TV program). As for infomercials, well if you don’t know someone is advertising to you, I suggest you pack up your TV and return it. In summary, for the most part, I think we can all agree people know when individuals are endorsing a product or their message has been “crafted”.
Yes I agree that younger audiences are impressionable and often look to celebrities as their role models. I don’t believe we can victimize celebrity Influencers or even Micro-Influencers for endorsing a product. In some cases, they are genuinely using a product and it could appear on their social streams. What happens then? Will there be an endorsement police watching each post. Ultimately I believe parents and adults have the responsibility to teach their children about the laws of the Internet. If your teenager is responsible to have their own social media accounts, they should know the rules of engagement.
The What and How of Influencers posting to their social streams is not so important. Like it or not, celebrities and everyday people like you and I, will continue to use their social streams as the social voice. The actual medium is what intrigues me more. For a Brand the ability to cut through the noise and be inside someone’s actual social stream talking about your product is invaluable. At the end of the day, an Influencer may indeed be promoting your product or coincidentally be using your product and happens to take a pic and put it in their social stream. It is as raw as it gets and the fact that it gets exposure is a win for brands.
Articles referenced while creating this blog post