FTC letters warn social media stars about advertising labels

Just tagging sponsored social media posts "#sp" isn't enough, according to the FTC.


Over the last few months, the feds have slowly turned their attention to the spread of advertising over social media. With a lack of rules and information, celebrity "influencers" paid to push products on their growing audiences haven't had consistent guidelines on how to reveal those relationships. Last year, the FTC pressed brands to educate influencers, and now it has sent over 90 letters to influencers and marketers alike. Those letters indicate that any material connection between an endorser and advertiser "should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed, unless it is already clear from the context of the communication."

While the FTC did not say who it sent letters to, The Fashion Law notes that Public Citizen's formal complaint cited big names like the Kardashian/Jenner family, David and Victoria Beckham, Drake and others. The FTC did say that its letters responded to a sample of Instagram posts, and noted that some of the tactics used to mark advertising didn't go far enough. Particularly, tagging a post with simply "#sp," "Thanks, [Brand]," or "#partner" isn't easy enough for consumers to understand, and putting a tag beyond the third line of text (where it would be hidden unless someone clicks the More button), just doesn't cut it. Anyone who wants to stay in the clear should include terms like "Ad," "Promotional" or "Sponsored" early and often.

The letters don't include any enforcement action, but a more thorough investigation could be the next step.