It only takes one scroll through Instagram or Snapchat to see celebrities/influencers professing their love for various products. From hair growth pills (a Kardashian fave) to slimming teas, moisturising serums, phones and almost everything in between, social media sponsorship is a big money business. The posts are often accompanied by a hashtag in the form of #ad, #sp, #sponsored or #spon to let readers know that the endorsement has (purse) strings attached.
Now, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States has announced its intentions to clamp down on this form of advertising, saying that it's often deceptive and can be dangerous to the consumer. Michael Ostheimer, a deputy in the FTC's Ad division told Business of Fashion, "If consumers don't read the words [those that indicate them to be ads], then there is no effective disclosure. If you have seven other hashtags at the end of a tweet and it's mixed up with all of these other things, it's easy for consumers to skip over that. The real test is, did consumers read and comprehend it?"
US-based company Captiv8 works with pairing influencers and brands and reports that brands are spending upwards of Dhs936 million every month on influencer marketing on Instagram alone. They also reported that the number of posts labelled with the sponsored hashtags has risen from 120,000 in July last year to 300,000 this year.
The argument is over the authenticity of the posts, however, there is a case to be made from the blogger/influencer/celebrity side on occasion. "Many will only work with brands they genuinely like and use," Lauren Diamond Kushner, from NYC-based creative agency Kettle, told BoF. "They say, 'I'll do this piece and I'm going to do it my way.'"
There's been no word on our own shores about regulating social media posts, though it's important to always be aware of the content we're consuming and the level of trust we put in these social meida advertisements. In other words, it might be time to step away from the waist trainer...