Influencers and disclosure - the celebrity endorsement

Influencers and disclosure – the celebrity endorsement

Celebrities and social media stars investigated for not labelling posts

Have you ever had a friend recommend a product, and you immediately went out to buy it? Celebrity endorsements are a similar concept. Brand ambassadors have been around for practically as long as advertising has. Think about it – celebrities appear to live the lives that we aspire to or look the way we want to look, so why wouldn’t we use the products they use or eat the food they do? Even if at times it isn’t healthy…

The social media revolution

Over the years, celebrity endorsements have evolved from features on the covers of cereal boxes and television commercials to paid sponsorships on social media channels. According to, Instagram hit one-billion users in June 2018. That’s around thirteen per cent of the world population. American actress and singer Selena Gomez holds the record for the person with the most Instagram followers with 138 million followers. Gomez has the potential to make approximately $550,000 for every promoted Instagram post.


Gomez made headlines in 2016 when she posted a shot of herself in a Coca-Cola advertisement to her personal Instagram account. The photo was the most ‘liked’ Instagram post of 2016, but was it ethical? Paid promotions on Instagram enter a grey area because they have the potential to deceive the consumer. If you thought Gomez was posting a pic of herself drinking the beverage because she liked the taste, but then found out she was paid to do it, would your opinion change? Statistics say probably.

Call for disclosure

In 2017, the Federal Trade Commision (FTC) sent 90 letters to 45 social media influencers and brands for their lack of disclosure language when advertising on their social media channels. Some of the influencers who received letters included Victoria Beckham, Naomi Campbell, and Kourtney Kardashian. Most influencers who received letters had “tagged” a brand in their posts but failed to address whether or not the posts were paid advertisements. It’s important for the FTC and similar commissions to address social media advertising violations in order to protect consumer interests.

However, it doesn’t seem people learn very quickly. Just last week, Britain’s advertising watchdog announced it’s launched an investigation into social media influencers who fail to disclose brand deals. The Competition and Markets Authority has written to a number of celebrities and influencers to better understand the nature of the deals they have in place with brands, after seeing examples of posts which appear to promote or endorse products without clearly stating if it been paid for or offering the celebrity’s personal opinion on the benefit of a product.

Moving forward

When working with influencers, make sure to encourage them to use disclosure language.

Some things to avoid are:

  • Just writing #sp and expecting that to be enough.
  • Writing “Thanks ____”
  • Posting disclosure in a comment rather than a caption.
  • Burying disclosure in a sea of hashtags
  • Only relying on disclosure tools provided by a platform – these aren’t always enough.

Have more questions on influencer disclosure, or just want to have a chat? Feel free to send us a message on [email protected]

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